It appears Iowa voters have decided to change Iowa’s constitution. Since it’s drafting, the state’s constitution has barred “idiots” and the “insane” from voting.

About a decade ago, State Representative Pam Jochum of Dubuque started an effort to change the wording that keeps mentally incompetent Iowans from voting. “I’m sure the words used in the constitution 150 years reflected the knowledge at the time by referring to people with mental retardation as idiots and people with mental illness as insane people, but we know much different that than today,” Jochum says, “so basically all we’re doing is modernizing the language to reflect knowledge we have today of people with those types of disabilities and just giving them the dignity and the respect that they deserve.”

Jochum’s daughter, Sarah, has a mental disability and Jochum is “heartened” by today’s vote. “I think it reflects our society respects people with disabilities and we do that with the words we use,” Jochum says. “Words are powerful and they can raise us up or they can tear us down and the words we are changing in our constitution…indicates that Iowans are saying people with a disability are part of our family and they ought to be recognized as such.”

Jochum’s daughter has a job at a vocational services center in Dubuque part of the year. When Jochum comes to Des Moines when the legislature meets from January through late spring, Sarah Jochum works at a similar facility in the Des Moines area.