- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A panel of state officials decided Wednesday to consider arguments and review legal briefs before they determine whether former state lawmaker Tony Bisignano may run for the Iowa Senate.

Attorney General Tom Miller, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz and State Auditor Mary Mosiman are considering a challenge by one of Bisignano’s primary opponents, Ned Chiodo, who claims Bisignano is disqualified from running because he was convicted of second-offense drunken driving in January.

Bisignano and Chiodo are seeking the Democratic nomination for the Des Moines area seat Jack Hatch is leaving to run for governor. A third candidate, Nathan Blake, also is on the primary ballot.

Chiodo’s attorney, Gary Dickey, argued that the aggravated misdemeanor falls under the state constitutional definition of an infamous crime, which means Bisignano cannot vote or hold public office.

Bisignano’s attorney, Joseph Glazebrook, argued that drunken driving is not an infamous crime and if the panel ruled as such thousands of Iowans would be made ineligible to vote.

Miller said his office’s research shows as many as 50,000 voters could be disqualified from voting under that interpretation.

“I think that is very serious,” Miller said.

Dickey said he believes the number is significantly less than that.

He argued that the framers of the Iowa Constitution concluded that anyone convicted of an infamous crime did not have the privilege of holding public office. He said the Iowa Supreme Court has decided in three cases that infamous crimes are those which include a prison sentence.

However, the Iowa Legislature in 1994 passed a law that equates an infamous crime to felonies.

Glazebrook argued that since the Constitution and Iowa law are in conflict on the issue, the panel should carefully consider how their decision could affect many voters.

“Since rights of thousands of Iowans to vote are at risk, a definition that would take away that right should err on side of the voter,” he said.

The panel members decided to consider the arguments and review documents each side has submitted and reconvene Friday morning with a decision.

“I want to review the case law submitted by the parties and look through their legal arguments and look at the case law myself,” Schultz said. “This is a very important decision and I don’t think it should be made lightly.”

An appeal to district court is likely, but the issue of whether Bisignano may be on the ballot must be resolved by early April in time for county election officials to get ballots printed, Schultz said.

Bisignano served six years in the Iowa House and four years in the Iowa Senate. Chiodo served five terms in the Iowa House.


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