Panel rules OWI conviction wont keep candidate off ballot

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A three-member state panel agreed that Operating While Intoxicated convictions should not prevent a person from running for office in Iowa.

The Des Moines Register reported that on Friday, March 21, 2014 Attorney General Tom Miller, Secretary of State Matt Schultz and State Auditor Mary Mosiman unanimously ruled that former state Senator Tony Bisignano may run for office. Bisignano reportedly planned to compete in a Democratic primary in June for state Senate.

The ruling came after a claim from Representative Ned Chiodo that Bisignano’s second OWI  offense made him ineligible to be elected for office.

According to the report, the Iowa Constitution says anyone convicted of an “infamous crime” cannot hold public office or vote, which was the basis of Chiodo’s complaint.

Gary Dickey, Chiodo’s attorney argued that Bisignano’s second OWI offense is considered an aggravated misdemeanor which is punishable by a maximum of two years in prison. He said under a case from the Iowa Supreme Court, an infamous crime is an offense punishable by prison time.

Attorney General Miller said that a law passed in the 90s compares infamous crimes to felonies. Miller said with Dickey’s interpretation, the rights of 35,000 – 50,000 voters could be in jeopardy.

“The statutory result is that Mr. Bisignano can continue to be a candidate and it wouldn’t be overturned on unconstitutional grounds,” said Attorney General Miller.

“I do not believe that it is in conflict with the constitution,” said Schultz. “I view this the same way the Attorney General does… I concur with your analysis.”