State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, announced Wednesday she and a House colleague are pushing to restore the ability to vote for Missourians convicted of a felony and on probation or parole.
Nasheed's Senate Bill 542 seeks to undo the prohibition on voting for people on probation or parole after a felony conviction — unless someone has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor related to voting.
Under current state law, only convicted felons who have completed their sentence and probation or parole are eligible to vote, unless they've been convicted of an election-related felony or misdemeanor, according to the Missouri Secretary of State's Office.
Nasheed and state Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, who is sponsoring the companion House Bill 1780, said the current law leaves 60,000 Missourians out of the political process.
"This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. To me, this is a human rights issue," Nasheed said.
"These men and women, they have paid their debt to society, but when it's time for them to go and let their voices be heard, their voices are silent," she said.
Nasheed said 18 states have passed similar legislation and in particular pointed to Louisiana, where she said a Republican-controlled legislature initiated and passed a bill the Democratic governor signed into law.
She was confident she could get her bill passed out of committee within the next two weeks then heard on the Senate floor, but not without the help of advocates such as the ACLU of Missouri and Metropolitan Congregations United — groups that were part of Wednesday's news conference.
"It's going to take me being able to touch the hearts and the minds of my colleagues," Nasheed said of how she saw the current level of support on the Senate floor.
"I believe that individuals may have a little 'heartburn,' because they feel like they're being soft on crime, but (she could be successful) if I can convince them as to why this will be better for the state of Missouri in terms of individuals having a right to exercise their civic duties, and to be able to show them that this is not about Republican or Democrat."
Aldridge said Nasheed's bill is a little further along than his, but among representatives, he's met a lot of Republicans who are willing to work on the legislation.
"This is about restoring the vote to both sides," he added.
Nasheed, who is serving in her last year as a state senator, called the effort her "legacy legislation."