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Governor Reynolds pushing to approve more felon voting rights applications prior to caucuses

Eddie Walker (left) speaks with Michelle Heinz (right) at InsideOut Reentry Community in Iowa...
Eddie Walker (left) speaks with Michelle Heinz (right) at InsideOut Reentry Community in Iowa City on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. Walker and Heinz both would like to see Governor Kim Reynolds sign an executive order reinstating felon voter rights after they are released from prison. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Jan. 9, 2020 at 5:00 PM CST
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With just a few weeks until Caucuses night, Gov. Kim Reynolds is continuing to push to restore voting rights for felons that have been released from prison.

Pat Garrett, Communications Director for the governor, said Reynolds "has directed her administration to do everything possible to review and approve as many felon voting rights applications before the caucuses."

Currently, Iowa is the only state that permanently bans felons from voting or running for public office. The only way around it: apply for reinstatement to the governor's office. Reynolds has already proposed an amendment that would change the process.

Garrett said the governor has already approved nearly 300 applications as of Thursday.

"Any returning citizen who has already submitted their application can rest assured that if they're eligible, their voting rights will be restored before the Feb. 3 caucuses," Garrett said.

TV9 spoke with an Iowa City man who is currently on parole after a felony charge from a robbery in 2001. He said knowing the potential to vote is there, he will not only apply, but he eventually wants to see the reinstatement process done automatically.

"The crime took 47 seconds," said Eddie Walker, who served nearly 18 years in prison for first-degree robbery. "Those 47 seconds, changed my life forever."

Walker got out of prison on parole in June 2019. After getting out, he explained that many challenges continued- even something that seems simple, like finding an apartment.

"[I] never had a problem paying my rent, and then all of a sudden, I can't even rent a room... I can't even rent a room, because I'm a felon," Walker said.

Walker has been working with Michelle Heinz and InsideOut Reentry Community in Iowa City to work through some of those barriers, outside of prison walls.

"It helps to have a supportive hand to kind of step you through the process and make sure you're not forgetting anything or helping you when there might be barriers or challenges that might come up," said Heinz, who serves as Executive Director of InsideOut Reentry Community.

But with caucuses weeks away, Walker and Heinz have shifted their focus to politics.

"Here it is, I think of one of the most important elections in history... is coming up right now," Walker said. "And I can't take part in it. And to me, the reasoning, [doesn't] add up."

Reynolds' announcement for a last-minute push for more applications to be reviewed and approved, Walker and Heinz want to see the governor's office take it one step further.

"I would encourage her to sign an executive order which would automatically reinstate voting rights," Heinz said.

"Given a person that's getting out and moving in a positive, right direction, doing what he's supposed to do, being responsible, why not give that person his voting rights back?" Walker said.

Walker said he would like to see the governor also sign an executive order to have felon voting rights reinstated.

"The gavel is in her hands now," Walker said.