Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Black Lives Matter Activists Propose Executive Order Language To Restore Felon Voting Rights

Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, reads a proposed executive order at a Des Moines Black Lives Matter event on July 11, 2020.

Des Moines Black Lives Matter activists are proposing their own language for an executive order to restore felon voting rights as they continue pressuring the governor to act.

At an event in Des Moines Saturday, joined by prominent Black politicians, activists chanted, “Let us vote,” and “Black votes matter.”

Organizer Ellie Odole said Gov. Kim Reynolds previously told Black Lives Matter activists she’d share executive order language with them in mid-June.

“After giving Reynolds nearly a month to produce an executive order, which she promised to sign, BLM is taking action,” Odole said. “We will not accept such a lack of urgency and disregard for disenfranchised Iowans.”

Iowa is the only state that still permanently bans people with felony convictions from voting forever, unless they appeal directly to the governor.

Black Lives Matter activists have repeatedly highlighted that this disproportionately affects people of color, and they’ve held several protests at the Iowa Capitol to call on Reynolds to take action.

Reynolds, a Republican, said in June she will sign an executive order before the November election to restore voting rights to Iowans with felony convictions. That news came as Senate Republicans declined to pass Reynolds’ proposed constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights, setting the process back by at least two years.

The proposal from Des Moines Black Lives Matter would restore voting rights to all Iowans with felony convictions when they get out of prison.

Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo, worked on the language and read it out loud at Saturday’s event.

“We proposed language that we believe is forward thinking,” Smith said. “It gives the largest number of people restoration of their rights to utilize their voice. That’s what we believe in.”

He said it would be more expansive than what Reynolds has proposed and what a former Democratic governor signed.

Reynolds has proposed restoring voting rights to Iowans who complete their sentence, including probation or parole. She also signed a bill into law that would prevent automatic rights restoration for people convicted of a few specific crimes, as well as require full payment of victim restitution as a condition of being able to vote.

Black Lives Matter activists call that a “poll tax” and want no such restrictions on the restoration of voting rights.

Reynolds has declined to answer recent questions about what she plans to include in her executive order, only saying that her legal counsel has been working on it and is seeking input from stakeholders.