DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Voters on Tuesday approved a statewide ballot measure seeking to remove outdated language dealing with mentally ill people and voting from the Iowa constitution. With 63 percent of precincts reporting, the measure had the support of voters by a more than 4-to-1 margin.
It eliminates wording that referred to anyone identified as an "idiot or insane person" as prohibited from voting. The measure would change the language to read "a person adjudged mentally incompetent to vote."
The push to rework the phrase was led by Rep. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque. She has been a key proponent of a 10-year effort to clean up outdated wording included when the constitution was ratified in 1857.
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In 1998, Jochum, whose 31-year-old daughter, Sarah, is mentally disabled, and then-Rep. Betty Grundberg, a Des Moines Republican who also has a child who is mentally disabled, found the "idiot" language in the constitution.
"Certainly the amendment reflects that we, as a society, respect the dignity of people with disabilities. The words we use are powerful. Our words can tear people apart or tear them down or we can raise them up," Jochum said. "I think changing the words in our constitution clearly says that Iowans have accepted people with disabilities into our family."
The measure had no organized opposition.