Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Wednesday signed an executive order restoring voting rights to felons who have served their entire sentences.
The order doesn't require Iowans with felony convictions to fully pay fines or restitution before being allowed to vote again.
"Today we take a significant step forward in acknowledging the importance of redemption, second chances and the need to address inequalities in our justice system," Reynolds said.
Under the previous law, Iowans who completed their felony sentence were required to individually apply to the state to have their voting rights returned. She said she plans to push for a constitutional amendment to make her order a permanent law.
"The right to vote is the cornerstone of society and the free republic in which we live. When someone serves their sentence, they should have their right to vote restored automatically," Reynolds said.
Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, welcomed the order, calling the right to vote "a defining aspect of citizenship and democracy."
"This action will benefit people regardless of race or ethnicity, but with the grave racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it will very significantly benefit African Americans and other people of color," she said.
Under the terms of the executive order, those who have served time for a homicide conviction must still individually apply for restoration. Those convicted of sexual abuse crimes also must complete any special sentencing handed down to them.