Written by Catherine Garcia
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) on Wednesday signed an executive order ending the state's lifetime voting ban for residents who have a felony conviction, giving them the ability to vote after they complete their sentences.
The move comes after activists spent months protesting outside the state capitol. The nonprofit Sentencing Project estimated in 2016 that about 52,000 Iowans weren't able to vote because of their felony convictions, with almost 24,000 finished with their criminal sentences.
"Today we take a significant step forward in acknowledging the importance of redemption, second chances, and the need to address inequalities in our justice system," Reynolds said in a statement. "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."
Robert Pate runs a mentorship and support group in Des Moines called Image 4 Lives, and as someone with a felony conviction, he is "thankful" for the executive order. "People will feel more accepted coming out of prison," Pate told The Guardian. "People will get more involved with voting."
Those convicted of murder, manslaughter, and abortion after the second trimester, which is a felony in the state, will not see their voting rights automatically restored, The Guardian reports. Because this is an executive order and not a constitutional amendment, the change could be rescinded by a future governor, but Reynolds said she will push the Republican-led legislature to pass an amendment making her new policy permanent.