Iowa Court Confirms Voting Rights Victory

October 31, 2005

For Immediate Release
Monday, October 31, 2005

Iowa Court Confirms Voting Rights Victory

New York, NY - In a critical ruling Friday, an Iowa state judge upheld Governor Thomas J. Vilsacks order restoring voting rights for 80,000 Iowans. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law praised the ruling, calling it a significant step in the national fight to expand the right to vote.

Governor Vilsack issued the Order on July 4, 2005, restoring the right to vote to all Iowa citizens who had fully served their criminal sentences. The Order also establishes a mechanism for ongoing restoration as others complete their sentences.

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Catherine Weiss, Associate Counsel for the Brennan Center, praised the courts decision. This is a huge victory for voting rights and civil rights. With this ruling, Iowa joins the majority of the country in dismantling these discriminatory laws. Governor Vilsack had the legal authority to issue this order and we are pleased that the court affirmed his position, said Weiss.

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Before the Governors Order, Iowa was one of the most restrictive states in the nation in its disenfranchisement laws. Iowa disenfranchised adults at a rate twice the national average, and had the highest rate of African-American disenfranchisement of any20state in the nation.

The Brennan Center has been actively involved in the nationwide movement to restore voting rights through litigation, research, expert testimony, legal advice, and partnership with a broad coalition of organizations through the national Right to Vote Campaign. The Brennan Center provided research and analysis in the Iowa case, which, among other things, showed that the governor could use his clemency power to restore the voting rights of those who have completed their criminal sentences.

Michael Waldman, executive director of the Brennan Center, said that Governor Vilsacks order and the courts ruling are part of a larger trend nationwide. If democracy means anything, in this country above all it means the right to vote. In recent years it has become painfully clear that too many outdated barriers keep people from voting. We will continue to work in Iowa and across the country to strengthen democracy by making sure that everyone who wants to vote, and has the right to vote, actually can vote and have their vote accurately counted.

Additional information can be found on the Center’s Allison v. Vilsack page.