With the change in Kentucky's felony disenfranchisement law, Iowa now is the only state left in the country that permanently strips people with a felony conviction of their right to vote. It is the most harsh and destructive such law in the country.
Iowa's disenfranchisement law has been especially devastating to communities of color, where one in 10 Black adults cannot vote because of a felony conviction. This means entire communities have a reduced voice in our government and it perpetuates the problems of a deeply flawed criminal justice system.
Fortunately, there is bipartisan support to right this wrong. A bill in the Iowa Legislature, HJR 14, would allow amending the Iowa Constitution to restore voting rights of Iowans with felony convictions. It needs to be voted out of the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Iowa Senate. We support this bill, which is the one permanent way to change the law.
It’s important that the Legislature not alter the bill to make exceptions. There has been talk, for example, of restoring voting rights only after the full payment of restitution. But the right to vote should not come with a price tag, with higher-income Iowans able to vote and lower-income Iowans unable to do so.