Iowa’s Top Court to Rule on Felon Voting Ban

Iowa’s highest court will decide whether to loosen the state’s strict ban on voting by former felons.

The Iowa Supreme Court said last week it would hear a challenge to the ban brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other voting rights groups. The Hawkeye State is one of just three states — Florida and Kentucky are the other two — that disenfranchise former felons for life unless the governor personally intercedes.

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“Iowa’s criminal disenfranchisement laws permanently deprive citizens, like our client Kelli Griffin, of their fundamental right to vote,” Julie Ebenstein, a voting rights lawyer with the ACLU, told MSNBC. “Lifetime disenfranchisement is destructive to democracy and to the re-entry efforts of citizens who have served their sentence, which in Kelli’s case was a term of probation. We’re encouraged that the Iowa Supreme Court will hear our case on this significant issue.”

The lawsuit seeks to clarify language in the state constitution, which bans voting by those convicted of an “infamous crime.” Until 2014, all felonies and even some misdemeanors had been considered infamous crimes. But that year, the Supreme Court backed away from that view, though it didn’t say exactly how the phrase should be interpreted.