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December 12, 2012 (The Sentencing Project)

Disenfranchisement News

  • Iowa Considers Streamlining Application Process
  • Citizens on Parole and Probation Vote in Rhode Island
  • VA Felony Disenfranchisement Laws Analyzed

IOWA Considers Streamlining Application Process

Currently, the Iowa Constitution bars individuals convicted of felonies from voting, but allows the governor to restore voting rights. In a meeting with officials from the NAACP, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad announced that the application process for individuals with felony convictions seeking to have their voting rights restored could be streamlined and made more accessible. In 2005, then-Gov. Tom Vilsack issued an executive order automating the process of restoring voting rights, granting ballot access to thousands of individuals who had served their prison terms. Upon taking office in 2011, Branstad rescinded that order, bringing back an application and an individualized decision making process. The announcement that the application may be streamlined and made more accessible is a change from his original position in 2011.

Citizens on Parole and Probation Vote IN RHODE ISLAND

PolitiFact recently fact checked a claim made by Carolyn Medeiros, executive director of  the Alliance for Safe Communities, while on WHJJ’s "The Helen Glover Show”: that during the 2008 election, 3,000 individuals on parole or probation had voted in Rhode Island. The numbers come in light of a 2006 referendum question, which amended Rhode Island’s state constitution to allow individuals with a felony record  to register to vote after their release from incarceration, regardless of how long they might be on probation or parole; the referendum was approved by a 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent margin. Although Rhode Island’s imprisonment rate of 1 out of every 187 residents lands it 46th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, its probation rate of 1 out of 31 residents makes it one of the top five ranking states nationally, so the change was significant.

VIRGINIA Felony Disenfranchisement Laws Analyzed

Dori Elizabeth Martin, a J.D. candidate at the University of Richmond School of Law, has published a comprehensive article in the University of Richmond Law Reviewon Virginia’s strict felony disenfranchisement laws. She outlines the history of felony disenfranchisement in the state, analyzes common policy justifications for the current law, and discusses the widely held beliefs about the role of race in the law’s inception. She then examines legal challenges to similar laws in the federal courts, evaluates the potential for success of comparable challenges in Virginia, and looks finally to recent attempts at enacting solutions at the state level.

Issue Area(s): Felony Disenfranchisement, Collateral Consequences