MO St. Rep. Michael Davis Proposes Legislation Allowing Felons to Run for Elected Office
Missouri law currently prohibits felons, even those who have paid their debt to society & had their offense expunged, from holding elected office. This is wrong for two reasons: first, voters are deprived of the opportunity to choose their representation, and second because individuals who have paid their debt to society should be afforded the opportunity to fully participate in their government. Notably, there is no prohibition on felons running for federal office.
Fortunately, Missouri State Representative Michael Davis (R-Kansas City) has filed House Bill 706, which allows anyone convicted of a felony to run for office 10 years after the date of plea or conviction. Notably, Missouri law allows for felony expungement in most cases 7 years after the offense.
We reached to former Rolla City Councilman & Navy veteran Daniel Jones (Ward 1), who was forced to resign after 18 months in office when political opponents became aware of two marijuana felony convictions on his record. Mr. Jones provided us this statement:
My name is Daniel A. Jones. I served 8 Honorable years in the United States Navy as a Photojournalist. I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. After I got out of the Navy I discovered the benefits of Cannabis and was arrested for Distribution of the plant. I served 256 days in jail with a 300K bond. It changed my life. I couldn't understand the hostility towards cannabis.
When I was released I served five years probation and the charge was wiped from my record by way of SIS(suspended sentence). I then decided I would try to change the laws that tried to destroy me. I ran for Rolla City Council and won the vote by a 3-1 ratio. I served my community for 16 months, educating them on new cannabis laws and working hard towards decriminalizing cannabis in Rolla. As I gained more support towards changing the laws, my past was brought back to unseat me. When the people who didn't understand what I was doing couldn't use the election system to stop progress, they leaned on the court system. They sought my local prosecution's team's help. They used a law that shouldn't make sense. A law that shouldn't apply because I received a suspended sentence, and my record was sealed. I also made voters aware of my plea and subsequent jail time before I was elected.
I wanted to serve my community and I was stopped by a law that holds no water. I was stopped by a law that goes against the people's voice.
Through their actions, my voice was amplified and I was able, with my community's help, to decriminalize 35 grams and under in Rolla, Missouri. I found eventual success, but others need to be able to serve their communities also. There are going to be more people in the future who have dealt with these kinds of pasts, that want to go out and serve their community the best way they can, the same way I have.
Mr. Jones' story is emblematic of why Missouri law should change to allow felons to qualify for public office. After honorable service in the armed services, Mr. Jones faced prosecution and pled to charges for cannabis -- something that Missouri now accepts as a legitimate medicine after 2 out of 3 Missouri voters passed Constitutional medical marijuana reforms in Nov. 2018. Mr. Jones was overwhelmingly elected by his constituents and has a true heart for public service, yet because of his political enemies and Missouri statute, is prevented from the noble calling to serve the people.
We urge the Missouri General Assembly to pass House Bill 706 and ensure Missouri voters have every opportunity to select qualified individuals to represent them in government.