The Iowa Supreme Court this morning upheld one of the strictest voting laws in the country.
The court ruled Kelli Jo Griffin was ineligible to vote in a 2013 city election in Montrose. Griffin had been sentenced to probation in 2008 for a felony drug crime and she’d voted after her probation was over. She was charged with perjury, but a jury acquitted her.
The state’s highest court ruled that for 90 years the delivery of cocaine, Griffin’s original crime, “has been and still is a serious crime in this state” and Griffin should remain ineligible to vote.
In 2014, when Governor Terry Branstad returned to office, he undid previous Governor Tom Vilsack’s executive order which granted felons voting rights once they completed their sentences. Felons must submit applications to Branstad and prove they’ve paid all court fines and fees before their voting rights can be restored.
Iowa’s Constitution says those guilty of “infamous crimes” are ineligible to vote and the Supreme Court ruling noted that “has usually been interpreted to include all felonies.” Three justices disagreed with that conclusion, but a majority of four justices prevailed in this case.
More than 56,000 Iowans are ineligible to vote today because they are felons. Voting right advocates had taken on Griffin’s cause, hoping the state’s highest court might grant many of those felons voting rights with its ruling on Griffin’s case.
Governor Branstad has yet to weigh in on today’s ruling. Secretary of State Paul Pate was named in Griffin’s appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. Pate says he applauds the court for ruling that under the state’s constitution “felons lose their voting privileges.: Pate says the “goes in line with 150 years of precedence and has been reaffirmed by the people of Iowa and their elected representatives on many occasions.”