A year ago the Iowa Supreme Court issued a splintered decision on Iowans’ constitutional voting rights that left an important question for a future case. Such a case appears headed to the court, and it could restore this fundamental right to thousands of Iowans. Iowa is one of just three states — including Kentucky and Florida — that permanently disenfranchise otherwise eligible voters with a record of a felony conviction. Convicted felons in Iowa must apply to the governor for restoration of voting rights after completing their sentences. Few go to the trouble, however, which is understandable given the intimidating bureaucratic process. As a result, these Iowans are forever denied a right that is fundamental in a free society even after they have paid their debt to that society. That is wrong, but a fix will not be easy.
It might be easy if it could be fixed in state law, but the exclusion of convicted felons was written into the Iowa Constitution. Short of a constitutional amendment, the only other route is through the courts. That is the path taken by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa in a case that likely will be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Iowa’s constitution excludes from voting those persons “convicted of any infamous crime.” The question is: Precisely which crimes qualify as “infamous”? The court, in a case heard on a fast-track timeline ahead of the November 2014 election, said some felonies may be defined as infamous crimes, but it stopped short of a more precise definition of which felonies.
Full Article: Editorial: Restore the right to vote for all Iowa felons.