On April 15, 2014 the Supreme Court of Iowa received a case regarding the eligibility of an affidavit filed by Anthony Bisignano for the candidacy for Iowa Senate in District 17 with the Iowa Sectary of State. On March 11, Ned Chiodo filed an objection to Bisignano’s affidavit claiming Bisignano was disqualified from holding public office because of an OWI second offense conviction from December of 2013. Choidos objection was denied in March of 2014, leading him to appeal the ruling which finally landed in the Supreme Court of Iowa.
Chiodo felt her had two strong arguments on his behalf: 1) Attorney General Thomas Miller was required to recuse himself from considering the objection as a part of the three-person panel due to a conflict of interest, and 2) a criminal conviction for an aggravated misdemeanor constitutes an infamous crime, which disqualifies a person with such a conviction from holding office under article II, section 5 of the Iowa Constitution.
In the motion filed to the Supreme Court of Iowa it states: “We decline to consider Chiodo’s challenge to the Attorney General’s participation on the Panel. In oral argument, Chiodo acknowledged he does not assert this claim to seek a remedy in this case. We thus proceed only to consider Chiodo’s main contention that the Panel’s ruling that OWI, second offense, was not an infamous crime was contrary to the Iowa Constitution.” In laymen’s terms the Supreme Court of Iowa will rule whether or not an OWI is considered an “infamous crime” which by law prohibits a person from being an “eligible elector.”
By definition of law an “eligible elector” is a person who possesses the qualifications to be a registered voter, which in Iowa is considered a fundamental right because of its “irreducibly vital role in our system of government.” The law also states that while voting is a right, it is not absolute. Both the mentally incompetent and a person convicted of any infamous crime shall not be entitled to the privilege of an elector, according to article II, section 5 of the Iowa Constitution. Unfortunately the founders of the Iowa constitution did not define the phrase “infamous crime” which is why this case has made its way as far as it has in the judicial system.
The problem is the crime of OWI, second offense, has been classified by Iowa legislature as an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment. However the term “infamous crime” has arisen in several previous Iowa rulings, but holds vast implications and is not easy to articulate an indefinite definition for. The ruling of this case would undoubtedly impact thousands of Iowans right to vote. It is also state within the documentation “This context helps frame both the governmental interest at stake in protecting the integrity of the electoral process and the individual’s vital interest in participating meaningfully in their government.” Therefore not only would Bisignano be unable to run for public office, but Iowans convicted of OWI, second offense, would no longer hold the right to vote.
It was also noted that some courts have defined “infamous crime” as “affront to democratic governance or the public administration of justice such that there is a reasonable probability that a person convicted of such a crime poses a threat to the integrity of elections,” which make the ruling all the more difficult.
The Iowa Supreme Court decided that an “infamous crime” must be a crome that is “particularly serious.” It is pointed out that throughout history the courts have separated the seriousness of crimes by felony’s and misdemeanor’s, with felony’s being designated as the more serious of the two.
It was ultimately ruled that “[an] infamous crime first must be a crime classified as a felony. As a misdemeanor crime, OWI, second offense, is not an “infamous crime” under article II, section 5.” OWI, second offense, in fact has never been considered an infamous crime by the Iowa Legislature. Only crimes deemed as a felony were intended to be considered an “infamous crime” by our founding fathers. All of Chiodo’s claims and arguments were rejected by the courts, which affirmed that Bisignano was is in fact eligible to run for public office.