the american civil liberties union (aclu) of iowa recently filed a lawsuit against the state of iowa. the suit challenges the constitutionality of the state's disenfranchisement laws prohibiting anyone convicted of a felon from voting.
earlier this year, the iowa supreme court questioned whether all felonies necessarily constitute an "infamous crime," which the iowa constitution states would disqualify a person from voting. the court previously ruled any crime punishable by a prison sentence should be considered as such; the legislature in 1994 defined the term as a felony.
the lawsuit asks the court "to declare that the iowa constitution prohibits the disenfranchisement of people convicted of lower-level felonies (such as non-violent drug offenses); and seeks an injunction to stop the state from bringing criminal charges against iowans with past lower-level felonies who register to vote."
aclu filed the lawsuit on behalf of kelli jo griffin, an iowa woman who lost her right to vote in 2008 following a non-violent drug conviction. griffin's lawyers told her once she completed probation in january 2013 she'd be allowed to vote - which was the state's policy under former governor, democrat tom vilsack after he issued an executive order.
griffin says she didn't know this policy had been reversed in 2011 by republican governor terry branstad when she cast her ballot last year. the state charged griffin with voter fraud, and she could have faced up to 15 years in prison. after three months and $10,000 in legal fees, the jury acquitted her of all charges: yet she remains blocked from voting under current state law.
iowa is one of four states banning all felons from voting unless they receive clemency from the governor. when branstad took office he required an application to the governor, including a credit check. since his felony disenfranchisement policy went into effect, about 8,000 iowans have completed their felony sentences.
but only 12 had their voting rights restored.
the provision is breeding confusion among bureaucrats and former offenders. new data released friday revealed iowa disenfranchised at least 12 legitimate voters because of errors maintaining the felon database. secretary of state matt schultz said the data is so "filled with so many inaccuracies that it could take years to fix."
u.s. attorney general eric holder spoke on criminal justice reform at georgetown university law center in february. holder weighed in on the policy reversal of branstad. regarding the governor's actions, holder said, "that's moving backwards, not forward. it is unwise, it is unjust and it is not in keeping with our democratic values. these laws deserve to not only be considered, but repealed."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.