Iowa felons hope to have their right to vote restored before Iowa Caucuses

Local News

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – With less than a month to go until caucus night, thousands of Iowans are still unsure if they’ll be able to participate.

Errors in the state’s felon voting database are to blame.

Governor Kim Reynolds has a long-standing history of wanting to restore the voting rights of convicted felons once they’ve served their time, but her previous efforts have been somewhat unsuccessful.

Two convicted felons that I spoke with Thursday tell me why they believe everyone deserves a second chance.

“I lost a lot of time with my kids,” said Jay Liesner, felon.

Liesner served five years in prison for a non-violent crime 20 years ago.

“I never would have went down the path that I went,” said Liesner.

Since then, he says the time he paid for his crime set him on the straight and narrow.

“I haven’t got in any trouble since. Just one speeding ticket!” said Liesner.

On Thursday, Jay is one of just a handful of convicted Iowa felons to serve his time and have his voting rights restored.

“You know I hope my vote counts,” said Liesner.

Hoping to restore the rights of all convicted felons, Gov. Kim Reynolds says she is once again committed to updating Iowa’s constitution when it comes to felon voting rights.

With an election nearing, some felons are requesting their rights be restored.

That’s creating a backlog of over 300 applications sitting on the governor’s desk.

“We have made a commitment to getting them done before the February caucuses,” said Gov. Reynolds.

But Liesner says the tedious process and long wait time keeps some from working to regain their priveledges.

“They’ve been in the system for a while and they don’t want to go through all the red tape,” Liesner said.

Vicky Whitmore is another convicted felon who has now turned her life around.

“If I’m helping them, I ain’t in my head,” said Whitmore.

Whitmore is dedicated to helping others with similar stories by running a woman’s recovery center for struggling alcoholics.

“I believe there should be a second chance and if I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be here right now to help the people that I’ve been helping,” said Whitmore.

Seeing firsthand the changes that she and others have made, Whitmore believes part of getting a second chance, should be the fundamental right to vote.

“Everyone that gets out of prison and gets clean and sober, I think they should have a fighting chance. Without that they have no goal. If they don’t get their rights back they have no goals to reach for and everybody’s got to have a goal,” said Whitmore.

“People change, you know? There’s a lot of good people in prison,” said Liesner.

Iowa is the only state in the country that permanently bans convicted felons from voting without a reprieve from the governor.

A spokesperson for Governor Reynolds said Thursday, the Governor has approved applications from 300 felons asking that their voting right be reinstated.

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