Monday, June 20, 2005

felons and politics do mix

On Friday, Governor Vilsack announced that by Executive Order he intended to reinstate the voting rights of convicted felons. The press coverage was certainly what you would expect. From Saturday's Des Moines Register, front page, below the fold...

Thousands of convicted felons who have completed their sentences will have their right to vote restored by Gov. Tom Vilsack under an executive order he plans to sign on Independence Day.

"Iowans who are living, working and paying taxes in Iowa are denied the right to vote because of their prior conviction," Vilsack, a Democrat, said Friday in announcing his plan to essentially provide automatic restoration of citizenship rights.

"The disenfranchisement of these offenders has a disproportionate impact on minorities in our communities. . . . This directive will provide the most important opportunity to those who need it most - the right to vote," he said.

And

The governor's plan calls for a blanket restoration of rights for those who are already done with their sentences, followed by routine granting of rights for others as their sentences are discharged.

And

Some Republican leaders were sharply critical of the Democratic governor's unilateral move. "This is exactly the kind of mixed signal that waters down Iowa's tough-on-crime reputation," said House Speaker Christopher Rants of Sioux City.

Sen. Chuck Larson of Cedar Rapids charged that Vilsack was "making criminals' rights far more important than victims' rights."

Larson said offenders owe tens of millions of dollars to the Iowa victims of their crimes, and yet Vilsack is dropping the requirement for full restitution as a condition for restoring voting rights.

Oh yeah, and

The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault issued a statement that it supports restoration of voting rights in general. However, "we believe the payment of restitution, fines and other financial obligations resulting from any conviction for a sexual assault should take place before voting rights are restored."

But, for now

Starting in July, the Iowa Department of Corrections will submit a list of eligible offenders each month for the governor to act on "without undue delay."

I think the real story might just be which wannabe's parade the Governor showered with a little P&V. Senator Gronstal was very busy at the end of last week making gubernatorial press noise, with a couple of stories in the papers across the state and his appearance on Friday evening's Iowa Press.

Unfortunately for Gronstal, the big political news of the weekend was Vilsack's social-justice -for-rapists-murders-and-drug-addicts Executive Order, which gives felons back their voting rights prior to complete victim restitution (not to be a complete suck-up but State 29 does have some good stuff on this). But of course Vilsack is going to drag this thing out, as the official signing of the Executive Order will take place in two weeks on the fourth of July. How symbolic -- and perfect timing to milk some national lefty press right before the National Governors Association meeting arrives in Des Moines mid-July.

Back to Iowa's future: it does sort of strike you that this sitting Governor has no intention of being left out of our up and coming gubernatorial campaign, and if he can affect the outcome, particularly the democratic primary, by all means he'll play his Bill Clinton to the max.


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