The Ottumwa Courier

AP Iowa

March 20, 2014

Former Iowa felon says she believed she could vote


She said she voted in the Nov. 5 municipal election in Montrose because her stepdaughter had been learning in school about elections. She went with her children to the polling place, where the workers told her she needed to present identification to register on election day. Griffin said she went home to get her ID and returned to fill out the voter registration form, attesting that she was not an ineligible felon, and cast her ballot. Just over 100 votes were cast in the election, which had no contested races on the ballot.

Asked by her attorney why she wanted to vote, she said, "That's where I live."

Griffin said she didn't think anything was wrong until she got a call from the Division of Criminal Investigation days later seeking to interview her. Poll workers had run Griffin's name through a database on election day and it did not flag her as a potential felon because her earlier conviction came under a different last name. But days after the election, a county election worker added her name to the state's voter registration database, which compared a match of her driver's license number and determined she was ineligible.

Lee County Attorney Michael Short raised his voice during cross-examination as he repeatedly told Griffin she was a "convicted drug dealer" who was trying to run from her past. He chastised her for not reading Vilsack's executive order and for not checking with anyone on whether the policy had since changed.

He rejected Griffin's claim that she gained nothing from voting.

"You want to make it appear that you are a normal citizen, that you are not a convicted drug dealer, that you have the same rights as everybody else," he told her.

Short said that Griffin ignored several warnings on the voter registration form that said giving false information could lead to a felony perjury charge.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on Iowa last month to automatically restore voting rights for offenders who have served their sentences, saying the policy disenfranchises tens of thousands of people.

Branstad has defended the policy he reinstated in 2011, saying the application process ensures offenders are rehabilitating and paying their restitution and court costs before they are eligible to vote again.

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