EXCLUSIVE: 'This is wrong': Iowa's flawed felon list is disqualifying legitimate voters for years

EXCLUSIVE: 'This is wrong': Iowa's flawed felon list is disqualifying legitimate voters for years

Jessica Bensley admits she has misdemeanors in her past but none that have risen to the level of a felony. Despite that, Bensley, along with others, were inaccurately added year to an Iowa felon list, resulting in the rejection of their votes. A licensed concealed-carry gun owner, Bensley poses with her sidearm at her home on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, in Des Moines.  [Photo: Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register]

Jessica Bensley admits she has misdemeanors in her past but none that have risen to the level of a felony. Despite that, Bensley, along with others, were inaccurately added year to an Iowa felon list, resulting in the rejection of their votes. A licensed concealed-carry gun owner, Bensley poses with her sidearm at her home on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, in Des Moines. [Photo: Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register]

Jessica Bensley can legally carry a pistol in public — in part because she has never been convicted of a felony.

But last year, Bensley somehow ended up on Iowa's felon list. Because Iowa law doesn't allow felons to vote, the Polk County Auditor's Office, in turn, rejected the ballot she cast in November.

Iowa's mistake cost Bensley her constitutional right to vote. And she wasn't the only one.

A Des Moines Register investigation of six counties found that the ballots of more than two-dozen voters have been wrongly rejected since 2017 — including 20 in November's midterm elections — because their names mistakenly appeared on the felon list the state circulates to county officials.

Iowa maintains the list to enforce one of the nation's most restrictive bans on felon voting rights — permanently barring felons from voting unless they successfully petition the governor or president to restore their rights.

But the Register's investigation shows that the state's process for enforcing its felon ban is seriously flawed — and officials have known about systemic inaccuracies in its database of roughly 69,000 banned felons since at least 2012. 

Iowa's voter database is seriously flawed, leading some people's voting rights to be wrongly denied, Jason Clayworth reported for the Des Moines Register. And officials have known about the systemic issues for years.

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