A resolution making its way through the Iowa Legislature seeks to rid the state constitution of the admonition against letting “idiots” vote. Representative Pam Jochum, a democrat from Dubuque, says it’s outdated language. The state constitution, written over 150 years ago, refers to people Jochum says we’d consider “mentally retarded” or “mentally ill” as “idiots and insane people.” Jochum says they’re trying to modernize the language to reflect society’s opinions today.Jochum’s resolution calls for barring people who are judged “mentally incompetant” from voting. Jochum says current Iowa law sets up the process for determining whether mentally retarded are competant to vote. If a person needs a guardian or conservator appointed for their well being, then the judge has to make a seperate ruling on the person’s right to vote.The resolution passed the House State Government Committee unanimously. It must pass both the House and Senate this year, and again in 2005 or ’06 before the issue is put to voters in November, 2006. She says the resolution has been introduced several times, but this is the first time it has move forward.Jochum has a 25-year-old daughter who is profoundly mentally retarded — she can’t talk or read and on Jochum’s own recommendation a judge declared her daughter incompetant to vote.
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