NAACP Checks Iowa on Felony Disenfranchisement Credit Check Rule

NAACP scores voting rights victory, but Iowa stands its ground on refusing automatic voting rights restoration for ex-felons.

By Brentin Mock Jan 03, 2013

The NAACP made progress on the felony disenfranchisement front when it convinced Iowa’s governor Terry Brandstad to lighten up his requirements for voting rights restoration for the formerly incarcerated.

Iowa is one of three states that permanently removes voting rights from people formerly incarcerated for felonies. Each has a process for restoring rights to citizens returning from prison, but Iowa’s credit check provision — where former inmates must submit a credit history report for restoration consideration — was one of the most forbidding policies of any state’s restoration requirements.

After meeting with NAACP leaders late last year, Gov. Brandstad has agreed to streamline the restoration process, including removing the credit check policy. Brandstad also committed to simplifying restoration instructions and streamlining the application process.

"We are pleased that Governor Brandstad has responded to our request and the and the requests of his constituency to review the policy and make the necessary changes, " said Arnold Woods, President of the NAACP Iowa and Nebraska State Conference.

"A streamlined application is a good first step. We will continue fighting for every Iowan’s right to vote to be fully respected," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President & CEO of the NAACP. "Any American who has committed a crime and served their time behind bars should be allowed to vote upon their release. It is a step in the right direction for them, and for our country."

The NAACP is still pushing for automatic voting rights restoration for those released from prison, as it is in Virginia and Florida. But Iowa still isn’t hearing that right now.

"When an individual commits a felony, it is fair they earn their rights back by paying restitution to their victim, court costs, and fines," said Gov. Branstad. "Iowa has a good and fair policy on the restoration of rights for convicted felons, and to automatically restore the right to vote without requiring the completion of the responsibilities associated with the criminal conviction would damage the balance between the rights and responsibility of citizens."