According to the Iowa Constitution, those convicted of an “infamous” crime can be denied the right to vote. The state has defined that to include all felonies and some misdemeanors. Recently, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the definition of infamous crimes did not cover misdemeanors and only some felonies are infamous.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit to stop the disenfranchisement of all felons in the state, calling it “the single biggest denial of civil rights in Iowa.” The governor has revised the requirements, so that many who previously would have had their rights restored are now denied that right.
Today, if you have been convicted of a felony in Iowa, you have to complete an application, pay various court costs and obtain a criminal history check. According to the Associated Press report, few felons have applied.
Being convicted of a felon brings with it a significant number of problems, even after the completion of your sentence. There is the loss of the right to vote, there are often restrictions on the ownership of firearms and if your conviction resulted from a sex crime, you may have lifetime sex offender registration requirements.
Many of these requirements provide little that enhances public safety. Many seem politically motivated to create the impression that the politicians are “tough on crime.”
One goal of the criminal justice system should be to return offenders to the ranks of productive citizenship. Denying former offenders the right to vote, or creating onerous roadblocks to discourage those who have completed their sentences, seems to have little value to society in the end.
The Des Moines Register, “ACLU files lawsuit challenging Iowa felon-voting laws,” Ryan J. Foley, Associate Press, November 8, 2014