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Iowa Senate Republicans Want Restrictions On Felon Voting Before Restoring Rights

senator dan dawson
John Pemble / IPR
Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, speaks in the Iowa Senate.

A Senate panel Tuesday advanced a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore voting rights to Iowans with felony convictions, but some Republican lawmakers are expressing doubts about its future.

The proposal—a priority of Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds—overwhelmingly passed the Iowa House last week. It has to get through a Senate committee by the end of this week to remain eligible this year.

Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs said he doesn’t know if that will happen because Republicans want to add restrictions.

“I think it’s safe to say [from] the members of the caucus that I spoke to, there will not be a floor vote on this this year unless we see parameters established, whether it be a separate bill or within this bill,” Dawson said.

House Republicans also want to consider more restrictions, such as excluding people convicted of murder, rape and child sex abuse from voting rights restoration. But they’ve said they will work on that next year.

Kayla Lyon, a lobbyist for Reynolds, reminded the Senate panel the governor is still very interested in seeing this constitutional amendment advance.

“She’s often approached when she’s out in public and thanked, repeatedly, for her work on this topic and shedding a light on this important issue,” Lyon said. “Which just reinforces that this is the right thing to do.”

Dawson and Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, signed on to advance the proposal. Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, said he opposes this because victims have been left out of the conversation.

The Senate could also consider this next year, and the proposal would still be on track for a vote of the people in 2022.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter