Iowa Supreme Court Upholds Felon Voter Disenfranchisement

In a victory for the wide-ranging voter disenfranchisement policies of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Secretary of State Paul Pate, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled this morning that “infamous crimes” are indeed defined as all felonies.

The 4-3 ruling keeps Iowa of one of only three states where felon voting rights are rarely restored.

The plaintiff in the case, Kelli Jo Griffin, sued Pate after she was caught up in the voter fraud dragnet of his predecessor, Matt Schultz. Griffin had completed her probation for a felony cocaine conviction, stemming from a 2008 charge when felon voting rights were still automatically restored, and was subsequently charged for voter fraud after her probation officer failed to tell her that Branstad had rescinded voting rights restoration.

Griffin’s attorneys, citing a 2014 state Supreme Court decision that aggravated misdemeanors didn’t qualify as infamous crimes, in which the justices also split on the question of whether infamous crimes should include all felonies, argued that her cocaine conviction should never have been considered infamous. (The voter fraud charge against her was dropped.) Griffin was also supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa.

This morning, the court ruled that decades of precedent showed that, although infamous crimes were never defined in Iowa’s constitution, they have repeatedly been considered to include all felonies by lawmakers and in the courts.

Read the full ruling here:

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.