12 Iowans Have Voting Rights Restored

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz announced Friday the state Division of Criminal Investigation has restored voting rights to 12 Iowans.

Schultz also announced the creation of a task force to fix the inaccuracies in the felon file used for voter registration in the state. “We need to make sure illegal voters aren’t voting and make sure every eligible voter is able to vote. We’ve given auditors a memorandum with instructions so that this situation does not happen again. The task force will also be working together to come up with a long term solution to fix inaccuracies contained in the state’s felon file."

After a statewide review of all provisional ballots that were rejected for reason of felony conviction in the past two years, 37 were correctly rejected as felons and 12 were incorrectly rejected. Of the 12 that were rejected, three were not felons but were included on a felon list provided to the Secretary of State, two felons had data entry mistakes where the conviction name provided did not match the restoration name provided, six felons had their rights restored by executive order and one felon received a restoration of rights in 2010, but was not entered into the statewide voter database. This includes the three voters from Cerro Gordo County that were previously identified.

The Iowa Secretary of State’s Office has requested that county auditors work with local law enforcement, clerks of the court and county attorneys to evaluate provisional ballots cast for reason of felony conviction before the ballots can be rejected.

Last month, a jury acquitted a former drug offender who voted despite having lost her right to cast a ballot, in a trial that highlighted Iowa's harsh policies toward voting rights for ex-felons.

Jurors rejected a perjury charge against 40-year-old Kelli Jo Griffin, who was accused of lying on a voter registration form before casting a ballot in a municipal election last November. It was the first trial stemming from Iowa's two-year investigation into voter fraud.

Griffin had lost her voting rights following a 2008 conviction. She testified that she believed that right was restored when she left probation last year, which had been the state's policy until 2011.

Lee County Attorney Michael Short said during closing arguments that Griffin wanted people to think she's "a stay-at-home mom just doing her thing" when she voted in Montrose's uncontested municipal election. He said she committed perjury when she left blank a question asking whether she was a convicted felon.

Griffin's attorney, Curt Dial, said it's ridiculous to think that voting in an election in the 878-population town would help his client's reputation.

Iowa is one of four states in which former offenders must apply to the governor to regain voting rights. A two-year investigation into election misconduct resulted in several ex-Iowa felons being charged, but Griffin was the first to go on trial.

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