Readers probably know that being charged with a felony should always be taken seriously. In addition to the very real possibility of being sentenced to time behind bars, those who are convicted of a felony may lose certain privileges. Iowa law imposes a voting ban for anyone serving on felony charges.
Not long ago, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder encouraged 11 states to revise their voting laws. The Department of Justice chief says that people should be able to vote after they've served their time by completing a felony sentence.
Iowa constitutional law that forbids anyone convicted of an "infamous crime" from being able to vote, which unfairly disenfranchises a select set of the population. Officials point out that that this state law -- and the way it’s currently enforced -- unfairly targets minority populations.
Of course, some have fired back at the attorney general's request. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has said that his application state voting law is fair. The two previous governors had an order in place allowing individuals who had served their time to automatically have voting rights restored. On the other hand, the Branstad administration requires individuals to submit a request to have rights restored.
Although the ability to vote might seem like a relatively minor consequence in comparison to a lengthy prison sentence, the important thing to note is how pervasive the effects of a conviction can be. The ability to vote is the cornerstone of our government, and losing that privilege is certainly one thing to be concerned about.
Source: Radio Iowa, "Branstad snaps back at Holder over felon voting rights," O. Kay Anderson, Feb. 17, 2014