Posted by Peter Jarka-sellers on June 30, 2016
This morning the Iowa State Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the state’s lifetime ban on voting for anyone convicted of a felony was allowed under the state’s constitution. The Court ruled that all felonies qualify as ‘infamous crimes’.
The Iowa Constitution contains the following (somewhat embarrassingly archaic) language:
No idiot, or insane person, or person convicted of any infamous crime, shall be entitled to the privilege of an elector.
Iowa Const. art. II, sec. 1. The legal issue was what constitutes an “infamous crime.” The state considers any felony to be an “infamous crime,” and the court held that was acceptable.
This ruling upholds one of the nation’s strictest voting restrictions which affects about 7,400 people in prison and 49,100 formerly incarcerated persons with felony convictions. Although still unrecognized in the U.S. Constitution, the right to vote is a fundamental right and makes Iowa’s lifelong ban - even on those who have served their time - difficult to justify. The segment of the population which this law disenfranchises are disproportionately people of color.