Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday that she will sign an executive order restoring voting rights to people with past felony convictions.
We don't know yet what the order will look like. But the governor's statement comes just days after the Iowa Legislature failed to move forward on action to amend the state's constitution to restore this basic right, something the governor has been advocating for more than a year.
Iowa is the only state in the country that permanently bars people from such a basic right of re-entry into society. It is a stain on the state's honor, and it disproportionately hurts people of color.
As majority Republicans in the Iowa Legislature have stalled on this issue, the governor has previously resisted signing an executive order, saying the constitutional route is best.
Apparently, she got tired of waiting, too.
Still, we have to wait to see what the order says. While in Osage on Tuesday, the governor said it would likely mirror what she had in mind for a constitutional amendment.
We're not sure exactly what that means. The proposed amendment was pretty clean. But the legislature passed, and Reynolds signed, a law that said before regaining the right to vote, people with felony convictions would have to fully repay victim restitution.
We opposed this measure. It is a high bar for people who already face tough economic challenges. For many, it will never be cleared. Critics have called it a poll tax.
The governor has not said when she might issue an order, though people with organizations who support restoring voting rights have said it will happen before the election.
We see these as encouraging steps. The House passed a resolution last year to put this issue before the voters, but the Senate failed to act. That means without an executive order, it would be 2024 before the right to vote could be restored.
That is too long to wait. We have watched for months as state after state has done the right thing and moved toward justice. Meanwhile, Iowa has idled.
We are hopeful that the governor's executive order will take an expansive view of the right to vote, that it won't put impossibly high hurdles in the path to the ballot box. We hope that the governor's order will honor the notion, as expressed in her 2019 condition of the state address, that Iowa is place where second chances are possible.
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