Supreme Court Issues Decision Denying Felons’ Voting Rights

Posted on: July 11th, 2016

In Griffin v. Pate, et al., the Supreme Court considered whether delivery of a controlled substance is an “infamous crime” under the voter disqualification provision of the Iowa Constitution. The lawsuit challenged the 1994 law that defined all felonies as “infamous crimes,” unless restored by the governor.

The Court held the term “infamous crime” was generally recognized to include felony crimes at the time the constitution was adopted. The meaning, according to the Court, has not sufficiently changed or evolved to give rise to a different meaning today. In his majority opinion, Justice Mark Cady wrote: “Constrained, as we must be, by our role in government, we conclude our constitution permits persons convicted of a felony to be disqualified from voting in Iowa until pardoned or otherwise restored to the rights of citizenship.”

“This conclusion is not to say the infamous-crime provision of our constitution would not accommodate a different meaning in the future,” he said. “A different meaning, however, is not for us to determine in this case. A new definition will be up to the future evolution of our understanding of voter disqualification as a society, revealed through the voices of our democracy.”

Griffin v. Pate, et al., No. 15-1661 (Iowa June 30, 2016). Read more here.

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