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Iowa Supreme Court Considering Felon Voting Rights Case

Jens Alfke

What makes a crime infamous in the eyes of the law? That's a question currently being considered by the Iowa Supreme Court as the justices make a decision that could impact about 57,000 felons in Iowa who are currently banned from voting. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks about the Griffin v. Pate case with law expert Tony Gaughan of Drake University, Jamie Ross, a rehabilitated felon from Norwalk, and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

Pate saysthe Iowa Supreme Court should not be determining who can and cannot vote, but instead it should be left to lawmakers to decide which crimes should bar someone from voting, as the legislature determines which crimes are felonies.

Ross sees it differently, saying that the process of regaining voting rights is overly arduous, especially because some rehabilitated felons will never be able to pay off their restitution, a prerequisite for the restoration process.

"When you sentence somebody to prison, that is supposed to be their punishment, but ultimately it's not," says Ross. "Actually our prison time starts when we get out, that's when the real punishment begins."

Jamie did apply to have her voting rights restored, and she is now eligible to vote. She continues to speak on this issue as an advocate for others.

Ben Kieffer's interview with Daniel Borochoff - River to River

Also on the program, Kieffer talks with Daniel Borochoff, the president of Charity Watch,a nonprofit dedicated to investigatinghow efficiently charities use donations to fund their programs.

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River