Political Animal


June 26, 2012 11:17 AM Pay Those Bills On Time Or Forfeit Right To Vote

By Ed Kilgore

If the 2012 general election winds up as a close GOP win, the odds are very high that the national GOP drive to restrict the franchise will deserve significant credit or blame. You tend to think, quite rightly, of Florida as Ground zero for voter suppression, given that state’s decentralized voter administration system and the zest the state’s Republicans have shown for stealing elections in the name of “preventing” stolen elections. But it’s actually staid and civil Iowa that is exhibiting one of the boldest exercises in tilting the ballot box, via Gov. Terry Branstad’s determination to reduce the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons to a number closely approximating zero. The AP’s Ryan Foley has the story:

Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has made Iowa one of the most difficult states in the nation for felons to vote, with an executive order he issued last year already having disenfranchised thousands of people, a review by The Associated Press shows.
On the day he took office, Branstad signed an order reversing a six-year policy started under Democrat Tom Vilsack in which felons automatically regained their voting rights once they were discharged from state supervision. The move flew in the face of a nationwide trend to make voting easier for felons, making Iowa one of four states where felons must apply to the governor to have voting rights restored. Branstad’s new process requires applicants to submit a credit report, a provision critics call inappropriate and unique among states.
Since then, 8,000 felons in Iowa have finished their prison sentences or been released from community supervision, but less than a dozen have successfully navigated the process of applying to get their citizenship rights back, according to public records obtained by the AP.

A credit report to regain the right to vote? That’s about the most revealing reflection of latter-day Republican values I’ve seen in a while. As is this quote:

The state’s new top elections official, Republican Secretary of State Matt Schultz, urged Branstad to reinstate the application process to “send a message to Iowa’s voters that their voting privilege is sacred and will not be compromised.”

Voting’s a “privilege,” not a right, you see. There’s not a question in my mind that these people would reinstitute poll taxes if the courts and Grover Norquist would let them.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Doctor Whom on June 26, 2012 11:27 AM:

    I'm waiting for some wingut red state legislator to realize tha that the Constitution doesn't require states to have elections to select their presidential electors and propose skipping all that messy voting and just have the electors selected by the (GOP controlled) state legislature.

  • Emily on June 26, 2012 11:31 AM:

    A credit report? Seriously? I kept waiting for the punchline, when Ed would let us know that this was a story from The Onion, not the AP. But no. How do Republicans sleep at night?

  • jsjiowa on June 26, 2012 11:38 AM:

    Iowa Republicans have actually been pushing this policy for a long time. There has been an ongoing debate about whether a felon's "debt to society" is paid once the prison time is completed, or whether the felon must also pay all court fines and fees assessed during the process, as well. The Republican view is that the felon has to complete all monetary aspects of his court process, too. When Republicans won the Govnernor's position in 2010, they were finally able to implement their policy. For felons that have difficulty finding work after they're released from prison, this may effectively mean they never get the right to vote again, depending upon the size of their monetary obligation.

    The Republican Secretary of State is also a strong advocate of voter ID, in spite of the fact that he can point to no instances of voter fraud in Iowa. In fact, many in the current Governor's administration are now sporting bumper stickers supporting voter ID, and they've run several events highlighting how easy and sensible voter ID is, in spite of the fact that's it's a solution in search of a problem. The Secretary of State has presented such a proposal during each of the past two years in the legislature, but so far it has been blocked. Depending upon the results of the election this fall, however, that could become a priority in the next legislature for Republicans.

  • howard on June 26, 2012 11:42 AM:

    i am slowly coming to the certainty that there are no republicans left with above median intelligence.

  • Peter C on June 26, 2012 11:50 AM:

    We've already had Republican officials saying that new Voter ID laws are intended to ensure that Romney wins.


    It's all about the result, not about the principle. They'll do anything they can to win.

  • rea on June 26, 2012 11:50 AM:

    I'm waiting for some wingut red state legislator to realize that that the Constitution doesn't require states to have elections to select their presidential electors and propose skipping all that messy voting and just have the electors selected by the (GOP controlled) state legislature.

    That would have happened in Florida in 2000, if the Supreme Court had not stopped the recount before the Legislature acted.

  • c u n d gulag on June 26, 2012 11:53 AM:

    A credit report?

    What's next?
    You have to show a deed for some property, or else you can't vote?

    Home or land ONLY!

    Any down-on-his/her-luck brown or black person can have a car!
    Hell, a former prisoner can hot-wire one!

  • N.Wells on June 26, 2012 11:54 AM:

    A felon is a citizen (even when in prison). That should be the end of the story.

    (Aside from all else, we should actively want social mechanisms that help re-integrate ex-felons with society and give them a stake in belonging to it in socially acceptable ways, and voting is one such thing.)

  • stormskies on June 26, 2012 11:57 AM:

    This reflects of course the plutocracy that the corporations and the oligarchy wants in order to keep the rich white people in power as long as possible

  • exlibra on June 26, 2012 12:08 PM:

    Virginia is another state where felons can get their voting rights restored only by a special "pardon" from the Governor, not automatically, upon release. Most of them don't even try.

    I sometimes wonder if the disenfranchisement is one of the factors (in addition to it being a lucrative business, what with so many prisons now privatised) driving our stampede towards incarcerating as big a chunk of the population as possible.

  • stevio on June 26, 2012 12:09 PM:

    Brings us to the "Framers" argument between Jefferson and Hamilton concerning who should/would have the right to vote. Hamilton wanted only landowners as they were educated enough to make an educated decision on the circumstances being voted on.

    Jefferson's response was to educate everyone hence we have a public education system. Apparently that didn't work out too well as now we are overstocked with High School educated low information voters that don't know their ass hole from a tea kettle...

  • Skip on June 26, 2012 12:14 PM:

    Has another fabulously useless poll been done to sort out the percentages of D's vs R's vs I's that are being disenfranchized or would that bring a few facts home too hard. There's a useless poll for everything else, why not this?

    What if, and I am hypothizing here, what if the people being disenfranchized were tending to vote REPUBLICAN!! Or is it that the assumed position is that most felons are minorities and most minorities vote Democratic, ergo...

  • Peter C on June 26, 2012 12:20 PM:

    I agree with @N.Wells. It also seems crazy that your right to vote in a federal election should be contingent upon the state where you reside. Do we make felons move to the states which let them vote? That's sort of a 'bugger your neighbor' situation.

    Of course, Martha Stewart can have houses in several states, so even as a felon, she'll get to vote. Heck, John McCain couldn't even recall how many houses he had. Dick Cheney had to quickly switch his 'residence' to Wyoming (even though he was living in Houston to work for Haliburton) in order to join the GWBush ticket (President and Vice President can't come from the same state). These options are available to the 1%, but not ordinary citizens.

  • TCinLA on June 26, 2012 12:24 PM:

    There’s not a question in my mind that these people would reinstitute poll taxes

    Forget poll taxes, they want to institute the property qualification - you know, politics according to the "ways of the founders"?

  • dricey on June 26, 2012 12:25 PM:

    Not that Branstad, de facto governor-for-life of my state, would bother do it, any more than any other Goober Teanut, but the text of the US Constitution explicitly states that voting is a right. Please: check out the language used in the 15th Amendment, 19th Amendment, 24th Amendment, and 26th Amendment.

    The Goobers are anti-American. Period. Future generations will look back on them not just with shame, but with disgust and revulsion. Every term they've used to describe themselves: Republican, conservative, even "Christian", sadly, will come to be identified with all that this country stands against.

  • Jason J on June 26, 2012 12:41 PM:

    I think a poll tax is the one tax that Grover would get behind.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on June 26, 2012 12:54 PM:

    I didn't go to law school. How in the hell is denying felons Constitutional? Even when they're serving their sentences?

  • DisgustedWithItAll on June 26, 2012 12:55 PM:

    I meant... How in the hell is denying felons the right to vote Constitutional?

  • coalburner on June 26, 2012 12:56 PM:

    I would hazard a guess that if the Repuglicans would re-institute the "how many jelly beans are in the jar" for select individuals test if they could.

  • boatboy_srq on June 26, 2012 1:01 PM:

    Do we make felons move to the states which let them vote? That's sort of a 'bugger your neighbor' situation.

    Isn't that what the GA and AL immigration laws were about? What the "states' rights" argument rotated around when it wasn't about Teh Brown Peeps? It's all about "buggering" your neighbor - especially if you neighbor is Taxachusetts, Fruit-Nut-Flakeland (a/k/a California) or some other blue state. I don't suppose anyone really remembers what happened when the public mental institutions closed (thanks a bunch, St. Ronnie) and a lot of states found that buying their mental patients one-way bus tickets to CA, NY, MA, etc., was more cost-effective than treating them in-state.

    I'm actually surprised that nobody in Iowa suggested a state to send all those disenfranchised felons to so Iowa wouldn't be on the hook for them.

    Remember: buggery in Washington is endemic to God's Own Party - as long as you don't get caught with an intern (Foley) or in the bathroom (Craig et al). It's all about the getting away with it.

  • Peter C on June 26, 2012 1:20 PM:

    Yes, @boatboy, it was an allusion to the 'beggar your neighbor' currency devaluation and trade protectionist policies which hindered recovery during the first Great Depression. But, for Foley-Craig reasons, 'bugger your neighbor' seemed more appropriate. In both cases, you've got local decisions which create harm when pursued on a large scale. If Iowa takes away the rights of felons, they all have to move to Florida where one can be elected Governor.

  • ET on June 26, 2012 1:40 PM:

    Of course if you use the word "fee" instead of "tax" even Grover could get behind it.

  • Wisco on June 26, 2012 1:54 PM:

    What is it with Republicans and their weird need to always "send a message" to someone? I mean, what is this supposed to be, governance by subliminal advertising?

  • David Martin on June 26, 2012 3:19 PM:

    Florida has long forbidden voting by felons, unless they are specifically granted the privilege. I think that in recent years, the state has made it easier for felons to get the privilege to vote.

    This practice doesn't seem to have been challenged on civil rights grounds.

  • pea on June 26, 2012 8:38 PM:

    If the Dems were doing this, the GOP would scream that we're dirty Commies. But if Rmoney is elected king with the Kochs, Adelson, Hamm, etc behind the curtain, it will be Fascism big time. Forget quaint memories of multiple candidates and voting. Forget sending people like Abramoff to jail; people like him will be celebrated. It's back to nobles and serfs -- with pollution like Africa, India and China. The GOP all think they will be the nobles. Some will, but most will eventually become serfs. I can hardly believe what is happening in this country.

    Wake up, you terribly, horribly misguided "Independents" and GOTPrs! Be careful what you wish/vote for.

  • Craig on June 27, 2012 2:44 PM:

    If they've "paid their debt to society" then...other than the obvious...exactly what is his problem with them becoming a member of society once again? NOTHING!

    This is nothing more than another GOP power grab, and it's time we simply slap these people down. NOW!

  • axequizit on June 28, 2012 3:49 AM:

    11-6-2012 [insert Hitler reference]