Reynolds: It’s ‘misleading’ to say Senate GOP broke deal on felon voting rights

By: - June 17, 2020 6:07 pm

Gov. Kim Reynolds talks with reporters outside a Test Iowa site in Waukee on June 17, 2020. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Gov. Kim Reynolds pushed back Wednesday on the idea that Senate Republicans backed out of a deal to advance a constitutional amendment on felon voting rights in exchange for her acceptance of separate legislation to limit the measure.

A reporter asked Reynolds how she felt about having signed compromise legislation related to the amendment when Senate Republicans did not keep up their end of the bargain and advance the constitutional change.

“That’s such a misleading statement,” Reynolds said. She spoke with reporters briefly after touring a drive-through COVID-19 testing site in Waukee.

“We worked together in good faith and I was trying to work with them right up to the end to see if there was a compromise that we might put together to address different concerns and different issues that were really important to a lot of people,” she said. “And that’s part of the legislative process. That’s how it works.”

Reynolds signed Senate File 2348 on June 4. The bill have taken effect if voters approved a constitutional amendment by Jan. 1, 2023, granting automatic restoration of voting rights to people who have served their sentences on felony charges. It required former felons to pay full restitution to the victims of their crime before rights would be automatically restored. Because lawmakers cannot put an amendment before voters until 2024, the bill is repealed. Editor’s note: This paragraph has been updated to clarify the effective date of Senate File 2348.

The bill also excluded people convicted of child endangerment resulting in the death of a child and those convicted of first-degree election misconduct. But some Senate Republicans argued the measure didn’t go far enough to exclude people of other violent offenses. Some also wanted the restrictions to be written into the constitution instead of statute. State law is more easily changed.

Reynolds had said she supported the legislation as a way to advance what she had previously termed a “clean” constitutional amendment with no such restrictions. The House had approved a resolution to advance the amendment last year.

Reynolds did not offer any details about her plans to sign an executive order dealing with felon voting rights restoration. She declined to answer questions about whether she would require restitution to be paid or leave out those convicted of certain crimes.

She said she has time to look at the issues involved “and I’m going to do it on my timeline,” she said.

Reynolds has publicly said she’ll sign an executive order in time for the November general election.

Reynolds said her main focus continues to be on enacting a “permanent solution” to the issue, which means a constitutional amendment. But, she noted, an executive order was always “part of the discussion” because of the upcoming election.

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