- - Tuesday, October 14, 2008


‘Idiot’ faces voter rejection

DES MOINES — It’s drawn little attention, and no organized opposition, but voters next month will be asked to change Iowa’s Constitution to remove the term “idiot” in defining who is eligible to vote.

Rep. Pam Jochum, Dubuque Democrat, has been a driving force behind the 10-year effort to clean up the outdated language included when the constitution was ratified in 1857.

“They used the language they thought would fit at the time,” Mrs. Jochum said. “We do know a whole lot more today. We now understand mental illness. There is absolutely no reason our constitution should refer to these people as idiots, because they’re not.”

At issue is language in the constitution that prohibits voting by anyone identified as an “idiot or insane person.” The proposed change would make that read “a person adjudged mentally incompetent to vote.”

The campaign is a highly personal one for Mrs. Jochum, whose 31-year-old daughter, Sarah, is mentally disabled.

The drive began in 1998 when Mrs. Jochum and then-Rep. Betty Grundberg, a Des Moines Republican who also has a child who is mentally disabled, discovered the “idiot” language in the constitution.

“I certainly understand that then the knowledge of mental illness and mental retardation was nil,” Mrs. Jochum said.


Board refilled after resignations

BATON ROUGE | The Louisiana Board of Ethics is resuming its work after being stymied for four months.

The board held an introductory meeting for its new members last week.

The board’s work — including bringing charges against public officials and offering advice on how to comply with the ethics code — has been stalled since June. That’s when 10 of its 11 members resigned.

Several of the resigning members cited new laws supported by the Legislature and Gov. Bobby Jindal that took away the board’s power to decide whether ethics codes were violated.

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