The following statement can be attributed to ACLU of Iowa Executive Director Mark Stringer.
"The ACLU of Iowa strongly supports HJR 14, which is necessary to permanently end felony disenfranchisement in Iowa and restore voting eligibility for Iowans who have completed their sentence and are back in our communities. For more than two decades, the only real way forward has been by Iowa Governors issuing executive orders, or by the individual application process. All four Governors in the past 20 years have done a version of each of these.
"Executive orders, even while temporary, impact tens of thousands of people. Case by case restorations occur one person at a time, restoring the right to vote to mere hundreds of Iowans, at most, in any given year. For years, those were the only two options that were politically feasible.
"In 2019, the Iowa Legislature changed that dynamic. The passage of HJR 14 by the House meant that for the first time in our history, the Legislature and the Governor were seeking not a temporary stop-gap but a permanent Constitutional change. That is bold, necessary action.
"This change is long overdue. Iowa’s position as the only state in the country that permanently disenfranchises our citizens even after they have completed their sentences is an outlier to an otherwise strong record of civil liberties. And let’s be clear: permanent disenfranchisement is a core civil liberties issue that lies at the heart of our democracy. Iowa outlawed slavery years before the Emancipation Proclamation, constitutionally protected the rights of African Americans to vote almost a century before the national Voting Rights Act, and desegregated schools also nearly a century before Brown vs. Board of Education.
"Sadly, our criminal legal system has some serious and deep flaws in spite of our history. These flaws have an outsized impact on Iowans of color, particularly Black Iowans. But they can be fixed with an eye toward the future.
"For the past three Governors, a Constitutional amendment simply wasn’t possible. The fact that the Legislature and Gov. Reynolds have made a permanent solution possible is nothing short of remarkable. This is a historic, once in a lifetime opportunity.
"The Iowa Senate now has a chance to permanently right a wrong that has endured for far too long. For over 150 years this change was not in reach. Now it is. On the heels of the historic first steps on police reform the Legislature enacted and the Governor signed earlier this week, now is the time for the Senate to pass HJR 14."