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Court To Release Ruling On Felon Voting

Flickr / Jeff Gitchel
A Polk County, Iowa ballot from Nov. 7, 2006.

The much anticipated ruling on felon voting from the Iowa Supreme Court will be released Thursday morning.

Iowa has one of the most restrictive felon voting policies in the nation.

It is one of three states that permanently disenfranchises someone if they commit a felony. 

That’s because Iowa’s constitution states anyone convicted of an infamous crime forever loses the right to vote. So what’s an infamous crime? The Iowa Supreme Court will likely tell us.  

More specifically, justices are asked to decide if all felonies are “infamous crimes,” or if the term applies only to a select group of felonies.

The Iowa ACLU, which represents the appellant, argues crimes only become infamous when they threaten democratic governance. Appellee Sec. of State Paul Pate says the term "infamous crime" has always meant felony. 

If the ACLU is successful, that would reenfranchise or preserve the voting rights of thousands of Iowans. This is especially true for Iowans of color, due to severe disparities in the state's criminal justice system. 

The last time the court heard a case regarding this issue, five justices agreed that misdemeanors were not infamous crimes. But they were split three-to-three over whether felonies are infamous.

Justice Brent Appel recused himself from that case. But this time Appel, who often votes with the progressive wing of the court, will participate.