Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed Executive Order 7 on Wednesday, restoring voting rights and the right to qualify for public office to Iowans with felony convictions. Iowa was the last US state that permanently banned its residents with felony convictions from voting unless they appealed directly to the governor.
Under Article II, Section 5 of the Iowa Constitution, no “person convicted of any infamous crime” is allowed to vote. The Iowa Supreme Court has interpreted this to mean that no person with a felony conviction could vote. Under Article IV, Section 16 of the Constitution, the governor is granted the power to restore citizenship rights lost from a conviction.
The executive order immediately restored the right to vote and to hold public office to anyone who forfeited that right through conviction of any infamous crime and who discharged their sentence on or before August 5. It will continue to restore these rights to individuals who discharge their sentences on or after August 6.
Under the order, a person discharges their felony sentence upon completion of any term of confinement, parole, probation, supervised release, or of completion of any special sentence. The order does not grant these rights to anyone convicted of homicide.
The order states that a constitutional amendment is the only permanent solution to the problem, although the people of Iowa would benefit now from the restoration of the right. Governor Reynolds has previously backed a constitutional amendment that would permanently grant these rights, even as this amendment has continuously failed to pass.
When announcing the order, Reynolds said:
The right to vote is the cornerstone of society and the free republic in which we live. When someone serves their sentence, they should have their right to vote restored automatically. We’re going to continue to advocate for a constitutional amendment and make this major milestone permanent.
The executive order will remain in effect until Article II, Section 5 of the Iowa Constitution is amended, and the rights already granted will remain valid.