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Iowa Secretary of State addresses confusion for some felons registering to vote

Published: Oct. 20, 2020 at 5:11 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate said at least 35,000 felons will be able to vote in next month’s election. However, some felons say the process to get registered is still confusing.

On Monday, KCRG-TV9 spoke with a convicted felon who says she had issues registering to vote online. Chawn Yilmaz says the top of the voter registration form, asking people to swear they have not been convicted of a felony or had your rights restored might be disenfranchising.

Pate said of the 35,000 former felons that will have their voting rights restored, 2,500 have been able to navigate the system and successfully register. However, with this being the first time many are going through this process, some confusion is to be expected.

Pate said within the past few months, they’ve completely updated the “Restore Your Vote” website. He said walked through the website themselves, and it is up and working correctly. As for the language used on the voter registration forms, he added the form is not “inaccurate” as Yilmaz stated, but Pate said he understands the wording can be an issue for some felons. In the process of updating their system, the voter registration commission also adjusted that wording to accommodate and make it as clear as they can for some people.

“Now, in all fairness, the form still has to be a legal form and that may not please all felons, but we did change the opening statement very clearly. It indicates here in Iowa, you are not qualified to vote following a felony conviction until your right to vote is restored by the governor period. That’s the new language," Pate said. “Because not all felons have their rights returned, that’s an important distinction so we wanted to make sure people did not commit a violation by filling out this form without first doing their homework to make sure their particular felony was one of those that is being pardoned if you will.”

Pate also said they’ve been working on clearing up confusion about the felon list and getting a clean one for auditors for some time. He said auditors were informed of the timeline and said the time invested in making sure things were correct was worth it.

Pate said if felons are having issues or confusion with the website or understanding anything, he encourages them to check out the resources on the state’s website, or contact their office, and they can help guide them through any issues.

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