An Iowa judge upheld a state law that disqualifies felons from voting but said the state Supreme Court needs to sort out the confusion it caused last year when it ruled not all felons are automatically disenfranchised. Judge Arthur Gamble ruled Monday in the case of a woman who voted in a 2013 city election thinking her voting rights had been restored after she completed probation on a 2008 felony cocaine delivery charge. The case was one of the first brought against a felon who had voted that went to a jury. Kelli Jo Griffin of Montrose, 42, who said she’s turned her life around from drug addiction, was charged with perjury for registering to vote as a felon but a jury last year found her not guilty. Jurors concluded she’d made an honest mistake.
Kelli Jo Griffin has a criminal record, but she got her life back on track and wanted to become engaged in her community by voting in a local election. For that act, the state of Iowa accused Griffin of a criminal act that could have put her in prison for up to 15 years. That would have been a personal travesty and a cruel injustice. Fortunately, a Lee County District Court jury acquitted her Thursday on charges she intentionally violated state law by registering and voting even though as a convicted felon she had lost that right. Griffin’s criminal prosecution is a result of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s campaign to go after non-citizens and persons with felony records who have registered or voted in Iowa elections. Griffin’s case, the first to go to trial, clearly illustrates why Schultz’s campaign is so terribly misguided.
A former drug offender who voted in a municipal election despite having lost her right to cast a ballot was acquitted of perjury Thursday, in the first trial stemming from Iowa’s two-year investigation into voter fraud. Jurors rejected the prosecution’s argument that Kelli Jo Griffin intentionally lied on a voter registration form before casting a ballot in an uncontested mayoral and council election in the southeastern Iowa town of Montrose. Griffin, a 40-year-old mother of young children, would have faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Griffin had lost her voting rights following a 2008 felony conviction for delivery of cocaine. She testified that she believed her right to vote had been restored when she left probation last year, which had been the state’s policy until 2011. Lee County Attorney Michael Short argued that Griffin deliberately left blank a question on the form asking whether she was a convicted felon, saying she was trying to hide her past as a drug dealer. Iowa is now one of four states in which ex-offenders have to apply to the governor to regain their voting rights.