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March 1, 2014

Senate Republicans willing to talk about voting process

Maintaining the integrity of Iowa’s voting rights is a responsibility we should all take seriously. Senate Republicans will gladly discuss voting process. Over the years many of us have wanted to have this discussion with the majority party, but those overtures have fallen on deaf ears.

Now it appears likely that the voting process will come to the Senate floor for debate in the coming weeks after the State Government committee passed Senate File 127, which seeks to restore felon voting rights, on a 9-6 party line vote.

Under Senate File 127, a felon’s voting rights would be restored after they are discharged from a criminal sentence, parole, probation or supervised release. Restitution would be required to be paid, but not before the voting rights are restored. Senate Democrats have said “money” should not be the reason the voting rights are not restored.

I take a different view regarding restitution.

When a judge orders restitution to be paid to a victim at the conclusion of a criminal case, it is part of the sentence. In that event, restitution is not merely a matter of money; it is just as much of the sentencing process as incarceration, and it is also the element of the sentence that speaks directly to the right of victims to be made whole.

Gov. Branstad favors keeping the current system in place, and I agree with him. Through this process, felons can petition the governor to have their citizenship rights restored after they have paid their debt to society and their debt to the victims.

When it comes to the voting process, the majority party is focused more on restoring felon voting rights. This is what they deem a priority.

Senate Republicans favor voter identification, which is an issue an overwhelming majority of Iowans want to see the Legislature address.

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