JEFFERSON COTY, Mo. — There’s a push by some Missouri lawmakers to expand voting rights to felons on parole.
They say the legislation could bring in tens of thousands of new voters.
Current Missouri law allows felons to vote once they complete their probation or parole as long as they have not committed an election crime. The proposed legislation would give felons the right to vote as soon as they receive parole.
“It’s taxation without representation,” said Giles Chapman, a felon on parole. “I pay taxes I go to work every day I volunteer for juveniles and for the schools to help the kids when I go talk to those kids so I’m putting in my fair share of support in the communities and society.”
Chapman joined State Senator Jamilah Nasheed and State Representative Rasheen Aldridge in support of legislation granting voting rights to felons on parole.
“I’m talking to the tune of approximately 60,000 Missourians that have been left out of the political process,” said Rep. Nasheed.
Metropolitan Congregations United, the ACLU and the group ex-incarcerated people organizing joined the lawmakers for a news conference in support of their bills. They believe granting a felon on parole the right to vote would give them a greater stake in their community’s future.
“We have individuals that are coming out on probation and parole that our fathers and mothers kids are in schools and they want to have a voice in the way that their kids school is going,” said Rep. Rasheen. “They can’t.”
“I should have the right to vote it would make me feel like a whole person being able to vote and being part of the democratic process,” said Chapman.
Critics believe waiting for a felon to complete their parole is an incentive for them to stay out of trouble. And believe committing a felony should result in a tough penalty.
Senator Nasheed acknowledges she will need to change some minds for her proposed legislation to move forward.
The bill’s language would not allow a parolee who committed an election-related felony to be able to vote.