Iowa’s Black Lives Matter activists finally got their meeting with Gov. Kim Reynolds today at the Statehouse, during which they tried to get her to commit to an executive order on voting rights restoration.
After six of the group’s leaders sat down with the Governor and State Reps. Ras Smith and Ako Abdul-Samad this morning, they emerged from the meeting saying that Reynolds’ office would draft language for a possible order for them to look at next week. However, they say she made no commitment to sign such an order, and that she expressed a need to talk it over with legislators.
The governor’s office hasn’t confirmed the details.
“She has to take today to go deliver the news to all of her buddies,” said Matthew Bruce, a leader in the Des Moines Black Lives Matter organization afterward, “and to develop the relationship so that this executive order will be supported by every single lawmaker in this house.”
The activists encouraged each other to go lobby legislators to support such an order.
“I am hesitantly encouraged,” Jalesha, one of the activists who met the Governor, said. “I don’t necessarily believe in government officials, but I believe in all the folks who show up every day, and I believe in the pressure that we can put on them.”
The protesters went into the meeting focused on the executive order demand after the Statehouse swiftly passed last night an initial series of police reform measures.
At issue here is Iowa’s remaining place as the only state in the country that does not allow for automatic restoration of former felons’ voting rights. Recent efforts in the Legislature are moving toward putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot to address that, but Republicans’ actions to implement a “poll tax” by requiring some past felons to first pay off any victim restitution has come under heavy criticism.
What has frustrated voting rights advocates and Democrats is that the governor has the power to issue an executive order to immediately reenfranchise those former felons, just as former Gov. Tom Vilsack did in 2005. They’ve criticized Reynolds for sticking to too slow of a process that may not get completed until 2022. Constitutional efforts could continue to make the change permanent, but Reynolds could make sweeping change now.
Protesters had gathered and chanted in the halls of the Statehouse for the past four days, demanding a meeting with Reynolds.
Today at 2:00 p.m. the Governor will hold a signing ceremony on the Capitol steps for the police reform bill passed last night.
by Pat Rynard
Iowa Starting Line is an independently-owned progressive news outlet devoted to providing unique, insightful coverage on Iowa news and politics. We need reader support to continue operating — please donate here. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more coverage.