Jeffrey Mizanskey can vote again after completing parole on marijuana charges

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SEDALIA – After serving more than 21 years in prison and nearly three years on parole, Jeffrey Mizanskey was able to register as a voter again on Wednesday.

At the end of August, Mizanskey's parole officer informed him he was getting out of parole and recovering his right to register as a voter.  

"I feel like I am a person again," he said. "True freedom where we have the right to say what we think and vote our conscious, I've been deprived of that for a long time."

Attorney Dan Viets, Mizanskey's lawyer and counselor, said on December of 1993 Mizanskey got arrested for possession of a controlled substance -- marijuana. In 1994, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of probation or parole. But in October of 2015, former Governor Jax Nixon made him eligible for parole.

"I am finally able to register," Mizanskey said. "I wish everybody else would have the opportunity to because we need to be involved with our government, with our lives. There's too much to be at stake for people to sit back and let things go by as they are."

MU Professor of Law David Mitchell said in Missouri when convicted felons are discharged from their sentence they automatically get their voting rights back. 

"The whole policy behind felon disfranchisement is based upon this notion that individuals who've committed a crime shouldn't have a voice in the participatory politics," he said. 

However, Mitchell said some scholars, included himself, disagree with the removal of felons' voting rights. 

"An individual who's committed a crime never gives up their citizenship and the right to vote is a fundamental right of citizenship," he said. "Their are still governed by our laws, whether they've committed a crime or not. Fundamentally, they need to be able to have a voice in the government."

Mitchell said there is a societal benefit that comes with the restoration of rights to people who complete their sentences. 

"If we tell individuals who have serve their time that they are not full-fledged citizens, that we had this certain rules which continues to exclude them, then how likely are these individuals to rehabilitate, how likely are they to follow rules going forward," he said. 

Mizanskey said in order to prepare for the election, people need to listen to their politicians.

"Remember, whomever you vote for, whey they are all taking to you, they're truly making a contract with you," he said. "And if they don't do what they are telling you they're going to do, why you voted for the in the first place, we can get them out of office."