Missouri law bans convicted felons from running for office. A bill filed this legislative session would change that.

State Representative Michael Davis, R-Kansas City, is proposing to let felons seek elected office. The Missouri House Committee on Elections and Elected Officials is reviewing his bill.

“Individuals can currently run for Congress with convictions on the record,” he said during a public hearing on the bill. “My bill includes a seven-year cooling off period where after conviction it would require seven years to pass.”

State Representative Kevin Windham, D-Hillsdale, questioned why they would have to wait seven years to run for office.

“It just strikes me that somebody will have to wait seven years in order to run for office with this bill,” said Windham. “I understand that that’s an improvement. However, we just heard a bill even on the floor, where folks would immediately be able to concealed carry a firearm – not wait seven years, not jump through hoops. As a body, it’s weird to me that somebody can immediately get a gun after a felony or would be under proposed legislation, but we’ll still have to wait seven years.”

Windham went on to say he thinks felons should disclose their offense was to voters.

“Whether they’re electing a person that may be sexual assault, may be a violent crime, I think that it’s important for voters to know a little bit more about who they’re voting for,” said Windham.

Former State Senator Jeff Smith, who served federal prison time for obstructing justice, supports the legislation.

“I don’t think we should discount the possibility of people because they’ve made a mistake in life to be able to contribute in meaningful ways,” said Smith. “Once people pay their debt to society, they shouldn’t continue to be penalized over and over.”

Smith said people run for office to fix broken systems.

“I think that’s why most of us decided to do this in the first place,” said Smith. “But typically, people who are here have no experience being broken by those systems. People who are incarcerated often do, whether it’s by our educational systems that have failed many people who end up in prison, most of whom don’t have a high school diploma, or other systems meant to help people and families get on their feet.”

State Representative Dan Shaul, R-Imperial, agrees that offenders should disclose what they were convicted of.

“This is probably going to be the only time that I really agree with Representative Windham on some things, but I think that should be disclosed. Should a comptroller or a treasurer for a county or something, should you be able to run for that office if you’re convicted of mail fraud or money laundering? I mean, on the surface, it sounds wonderful. I think you have to be careful when you get down to each individual case, because you don’t want a sex offender or someone who maybe had sexual assault or something else, being on a school board, or some some type of office like that. You wouldn’t want to collector of revenue to also have money laundering,” said Shaul.

During the hearing, no one spoke in opposition to the bill.

To review House Bill 2301, click here.

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