Activists hope Iowa felon voting rights bill will head to the Senate

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa's constitution may change to allow felons who have completed their sentences to vote. Last week the Iowa House overwhelmingly advanced a resolution that could eventually do just that.

Cedar Rapids NAACP President Dedric Doolin is encouraged over the news that the Iowa House voted to pass the resolution.

"If you've been rehabilitated then participating in the voting process should be part of something you can do," said Doolin.

Doolin told KCRG-TV9 he along with other NAACP officials have lobbied legislators and the governor's office for years to get to this point.

Doolan said their motivation to help get the resolution passed is because African-Americans are disproportionately in the criminal justice system and thus, in their view, "African-Americans disproportionately don't get the right to vote."

Republican Representative Dean Fisher, whose district covers parts of Marshall, Tama, and Black Hawk counties, was one of only two legislators to oppose the resolution. It is a vote that put Fisher at odds with most of his own party but it is a vote he said he stands behind.

"They're criminals," said Fisher. "It's been a long-standing precedent in this country that if you commit a heinous crime you lose your right to vote."

Fisher said he is open to allowing certain felons to be able to vote again but if the privileges extend to those convicted of violent or financial crimes, for him, it is a non-starter.

"I have to think of the victims in this instance and the victims carry impacts for life so I don't I don't see why the perpetrators of these crimes shouldn't carry some impact for life as well," said Fisher.

The resolution is in the hands of a full Senate committee.

Even if the Senate approves the resolution the constitutional amendment does not become law quickly. Another legislative body would have to pass it, and then voters would have to approve it as well. The soonest it would become law is 2022.