Justices of the Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday peppered lawyers with questions as they waded into the difficult issue of determining whether someone convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor should be disqualified from voting and holding public office in Iowa. The court heard arguments in a case in which state senate primary rival Ned Chiodo is seeking to disqualify Tony Bisignano based on his conviction for second-offense drunken driving. Both men are seeking the Democratic nomination for Des Moines-area seat to be vacated by Jack Hatch, a Democratic candidate for governor. At issue is whether an aggravated misdemeanor falls under the Iowa Constitution’s definition of an infamous crime, which would mean Bisignano cannot vote or hold public office.
Chiodo’s attorney, Gary Dickey based his argument on a constitutional article that says a person convicted of an infamous crime shall not be entitled to the privilege of an elector.
The problem is the Iowa Constitution doesn’t define “infamous crime,” and courts over the last 100 years have construed it to mean anything resulting in a prison sentence. The Legislature revised the criminal code in the 1970s, requiring prison time in some circumstances for individuals convicted of aggravated misdemeanors.