All New Yorkers Released From Prison Could Vote Under Bill

Lorie Shaull / CC BY-SA 2.0

ALBANY (AP) — All individuals released on parole could vote in New York under a bill that passed the Assembly on Wednesday and is now on its way to the governor.

The legislation passed the Senate last month, and will next head to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor has 10 days to sign or veto a bill once it hits his desk before it becomes law.

Currently, people who are released on parole and under community supervision for felonies have to wait months or years to vote until they’ve been discharged from parole or reached the end of supervision.

That can mean a wait as long as five to 10 years, according to bill supporters. Two states — Vermont and Maine — don’t restrict the voting rights of people with felonies, while 14 states allow people on community supervision to vote.

“It is the goal of this legislation to allow individuals who have paid the most significant portion of their debt to society to be provided with a rehabilitative tool of the highest order — the rational reinstatement of their right to vote,” according to a summary of the bill.

More than 30,000 New Yorkers were barred from voting at any time under the state law until 2018, according to advocacy group VOCAL-NY.

That year, Cuomo began using his pardon power to restore voting rights of people barred from voting under a 2018 executive order he signed.

Supporters say the bill removes any need for that process by restoring the right to vote for all people released from prison, and protects voting rights in case a future governor ends the practice.

“Too often members of our communities, who are on parole, are disenfranchised for years during supervision and never register to vote when they become eligible simply because they do not know they have become eligible,” Assembly member Latrice Walker, a Democrat, said.

Individuals would also have to receive notification that their voting rights were restored, along with a voter registration form, under the bill.


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