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Iowa Felon Sues Governor

Joe Gratz

An Iowa woman and the ACLU are suing Iowa officials, including Gov. Terry Branstad, for the right to vote. 

Kelli Jo Griffin of Montrose says people with lower-level felony convictions should be able to vote in Iowa.

The lawsuit was filed in Polk County District Court Friday morning. In addition to Branstad, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz and Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise are also listed as respondents.   

Griffin was convicted of a non-violent drug-related felony in 2008. At the time in Iowa, voting rights to felons were automatically restored upon completing probation.

That changed in 2011 with an executive order by Gov. Branstad. Today felon voting rights are only restored through petitioning the governor’s office.

Veronica Fowler of the ACLU of Iowa says Griffin is now a productive member of society and should be able to vote. 

"Why don't people who have served whatever sentences they're given, why aren't they given back the right to vote?" asks Fowler. "They're now productive members of society, and should be treated like it." 

In March of this year, Griffin was tried and acquitted of voter fraud.  In 2013 Griffin cast a ballot in a local election believing her voting rights had been restored, unaware Iowa voting laws for felons had changed.

Her trail was the result of a statewide investigation of voter fraud by Schultz and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.  

According to the Brennan Center of Justice, Iowa is one of three states were felons permanently lose their right to vote. 

The governor’s office declined to comment, since its legal team has yet to review the lawsuit.