Iowa legislators and civil rights advocates say they want to rewrite state law and amend the state constitution after the state Supreme Court upheld a lifetime voting ban for convicted felons, reports the Des Moines Register.
The court ruled, 4 to 3, that all felonies are “infamous crimes” resulting in permanent disenfranchisement under the state constitution. The decision upholds what critics say is one of the harshest felon voting laws in the nation, and ensures the state will not see a significant shift in voter eligibility for this year’s 2016 elections.
Iowa’s governor and top elections officer cheered the court’s decision. “This ruling goes in line with 150 years of precedence and has been reaffirmed by the people of Iowa and their elected representatives on multiple occasions,” said Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. Gov. Terry Branstad praised the ruling as a “common sense decision” that balances “the rights of convicted felons with the responsibilities felons have to their victims and community after they commit their crime.” The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which argued the case, had sought to limit disenfranchisement to a handful of felonies directly relating to elections and governance. If the court had upheld that view, thousands of Iowans with felony convictions could have had their voting rights restored ahead of this November’s presidential election.