All but one member of a Senate committee have voted to require paroled felons to prove they’ve repaid restitution to victims before they’d get their voting rights restored. The bill’s requirements would kick in *IF* Iowa voters eventually approve an amendment to the state constitution that automatically restores voting rights to felons. The bill passed without debate — and with the support of every Republican on the committee and Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen.
“Clearly, if Democrats were in control, we would have had a different piece of legislation coming out…because we believe in expanding voter rights,” Petersen says. The lone “no” came from Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids. Hogg says the proposal favors wealthy criminal offenders who can pay restitution immediately over the poor who may take years to repay their debts.
“Restoration of voting rights reduces the chance that somebody released from prison will offend again,” Hogg says. “If we want to keep Iowans safe, this is real easy way to help reduce the chance that people are going to commit future crimes.” A federal appeals court ruled yesterday on a similar FLORIDA law. The three-judge panel said it’s unconstitutional to require felons to pay all court fines and victim restitution before they get their voting rights back.