The Iowa Supreme Court ruled against a wide expansion of voting rights for convicted criminals on Thursday, finding that all felonies are “infamous crimes” resulting in disenfranchisement under the state constitution. The 4-3 decision upholds what critics have said is one of the harshest felon disenfranchisement laws in the nation. Iowa’s constitution bars persons from voting if they’ve committed an “infamous crime,” a term long understood to mean a felony under state or federal law. Only two other states — Florida and Kentucky — match Iowa by permanently barring convicted felons from voting unless they apply for a restoration of rights from the governor. The constitutional prohibition was seen as making it harder for ex-offenders to reintegrate into society and as having a disproportionate impact on African-Americans, who are incarcerated at higher rates in Iowa.
“We are constrained to conclude that all objective indicia of today’s standard of infamy supports the conclusion that an infamous crime has evolved to be defined as a felony,” Chief Justice Mark Cady wrote in the majority decision. “This is the community standard expressed by our Legislature and is consistent with the basic standard we have used over the years. It is also consistent with the constitutional history, text and purpose of the provision.”
The case decided Thursday, Griffin v. Pate, was a head-on challenge to the notion that “infamous crimes” included all felonies, a challenge the high court itself all but invited in a narrower voting-rights ruling in 2014.
The plaintiff, Kelli Jo Griffin, 42, of Montrose in southeast Iowa, was convicted in 2008 of a felony cocaine delivery charge, but had completed her sentence and believed her voting rights has been restored when she took her children to watch her vote in a November 2013 municipal election.
Full Article: Iowa Supreme Court upholds ban on felons voting in Iowa.