Nel's New Day

June 27, 2012

If You Lived in Iowa ….

Photo identification has been one of the controversial laws that Republican-controlled states have passed, resulting in numerous letters supporting this egregious attack on voters’ rights by citing that people need photo ID to purchase alcohol or get on an airplane. Never mind that buying alcohol and getting on an airplane are not constitutional rights, but voting is. Never mind that fraud has been so minimal that it gives no justification for disenfranchising 5 million voters in the United States.

Now, however, a Republican state has stepped over the edge and into a morass of slime. Imagine being required to submit a complete credit history—not just a summary—in order to have permission to vote. Iowa does. Gov. Terry Branstad has changed voting requirements for people released from prison through an executive order requiring them to submit the following:

They must complete a 31-item questionnaire that includes the address of the judge who handled the conviction.

They must pay a filing fee.

They must submit a full credit report.

Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State, Matt Schultz supports Branstad’s restrictions because they “send a message to Iowa’s voters that their voting privilege is sacred and will not be compromised.” He seems to believe that God dispenses this right, not the U.S. Constitution.

Since Branstad’s order went into effect, 8,000 Iowa felons would be eligible to vote if they navigated the requirements; fewer than a dozen have received voting rights. One of those who failed is 40-year-old Henry Straight, a truck driver, who was convicted of stealing a soda machine and fleeing while on bond when he was a teenager. He even hired a lawyer but was still unsuccessful in completing the application to the state’s satisfaction.

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a national group that advocates for policies to make it easier for felons to vote, said that Branstad is “making your right to vote contingent on your financial abilities.”

Thirty-eight states allow most felons to automatically regain voting rights upon completion of their sentences. Felons in prison can vote in Maine and Vermont. Some of the remaining 12 states require payment of fees, application, and sometimes a waiting period. No other state requires a credit history.

Branstad might want to help Straight get his paperwork accepted; Straight said he wants to vote for Branstad.

If an executive order can require a credit history from ex-felons before they can vote, it can require a credit history from anyone.

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