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Iowans With Felony Convictions Raise Concerns About Voting Access

John Pemble/IPR file
After finishing their sentences, Iowans with felony convictions must appeal to the governor to get their voting rights reinstated under current law.

Iowa is the only state in the nation that still automatically bans all people with felony convictions from voting. As of now, it’s up to the tens of thousands of Iowans with such convictions to appeal to the state to get their voting rights restored – a process that faced a significant backlog in the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

This legislative session, lawmakers in both the Iowa House and Senate are entertaining bills that would support expanding felon voting rights under a constitutional amendment. Governor Reynolds has come out in support of a related amendment, and the House passed legislation last session. But a new bill advanced by Senate Republicans last week aims to add stipulations to proposed constitutional amendments which could bar Iowans with certain felony convictions, including murder and certain sex crimes, from voting forever.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric are joined by lawmakers and Iowans with felony convictions to talk about pending legislation that could decide which Iowans have the ability to vote in upcoming elections.


  • Sen. Dan Dawson, Republican of Council Bluffs
  • Rep. Mary Wolfe, Democrat of Clinton
  • Rep. Steven Holt, Republican of Denison
  • Eric Harris, Iowa City resident with a felony conviction seeking the reinstatement of his voting rights
  • Jamie Achenbaugh, Council Bluffs resident with a felony conviction seeking the reinstatement of her voting rights.

Katelyn Harrop is a producer for IPR's River to River and Talk of Iowa
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River