As I write this, many Iowans are waiting patiently to exercise their right to vote for the candidate of their choice and the issues that matter to them.
But some Iowans, nearly 13,000, didn't get to vote on Tuesday due to regulations related to their past criminal conduct, regulations that some say are too confusing and restrictive.
Many states have laws that limit the ability of convicted felons to vote, but Iowa is one of only four states that require felons (who have already served their time in prison and probation) to reapply for the right to vote, rather than getting the right back automatically after a certain time frame or successful completion of parole and payment of all fines, court costs and any victim's restoration. In Iowa, offenders must submit an application, pay for a credit check, answer a 31 question long interview form, and submit paperwork to prove they've paid all their fines.
This policy, which went in to effect last year on order from Governor Branstad, has effected over 13,000 people who have completed prison and parole sentences since January of 2011. Of the 13,000 who might be eligible only 20 have completed the process.
It seems to be that there must be something wrong with the process if .001% of people are able to complete it. I understand wanting to make sure that people have paid their debt to society, but I also believe that voting is an important right that should be restored if someone has done what they need to do to make up for their crimes.
What do you think? Should offenders get their voting rights back automatically or should they have to jump through hoops to do it?