Reclaiming MLK for voting rights

January 21, 2016

St. Louis American

In reclaiming MLK, we must not forget that his most basic struggles still require our attention and participation. Voter ID bills have been passed in Missouri twice before, but thrown out by the Missouri Supreme court and vetoed by Gov. Jay Nixon. As long as this Republican-dominated Legislature views selective disenfranchisement as helpful to its candidates, we will need to reclaim MLK by fighting against photo ID voter initiatives and bills.

On the other hand, the spirit of Dr. King surely would fight for Senate Bill 924, which would allow Missouri citizens convicted of a felony and on probation or parole to vote. State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) actually found a Republican co-sponsor for this bill, state Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph), despite the expectation that the felons who regain the franchise through passage of this legislation would be likely to vote Democrat.

“Probation and parole are meant to prevent citizens convicted of crimes from doing bad things – not good things, like voting,” Schaaf said in a statement. “Not only does the current law undermine our democratic system, but it disproportionately affects African Americans, a group that has already been the object of far too much legal discrimination” – and a group that almost universally votes to defeat candidates from Schaaf’s party. We praise Nasheed and Schaaf for their leadership and encourage voters to pressure their legislators to support this bill. 


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