Governor Cuomo to Restore Voting Rights of 35,000 New York Felons

Cuomo Drew AngererGetty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will issue an executive order to give some 35,000 convicted felons on parole the right to vote. This demographic is currently banned from voting in the state until the parole sentence is complete.

“The move comes after New York’s Republican-controlled Senate shot down legislation Cuomo proposed that would have allowed parolees to vote, Cuomo said,” Business Insider reported.

Cuomo made the announcement Wednesday at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference in New York City.

“I’m unwilling to take ‘no’ for an answer,” Cuomo said. “I’m going to make it law by executive order.”

The order cannot change state law prohibiting felons from voting but puts in place a mechanism to grant “conditional pardons” to people currently on parole or those in that population going forward, according to Business Insider.

Advocates for voting rights for felons keep track of state laws, including the Brennan Center for Justice and New York University School of Law, which notes Cuomo’s decision on its website:

The most recent state to change policies is New York, where on April 18, 2018, Gov. Cuomo announced that he would restore the right to vote to New Yorkers on parole through executive order. This would enfranchize approximately 35,000 New Yorkers living and working in their communities. Prior to this announcement, New Yorkers were disenfranchised until the completion of incarceration and parole.

Business Insider used The Sentencing Project as a source for its reporting on the Cuomo move:

Most convicted felons in the United States face hurdles and roadblocks to voting, which vary by state. Two states, Maine and Vermont, have no felony disenfranchisement laws and even allow felons to vote while in prison, said Morgan McLeod, spokeswoman for The Sentencing Project, a non-profit advocacy group for criminal justice reform.

Four states — Florida, Kentucky, Iowa and Virginia — ban felons from voting for life, unless their rights are restored by their governor, as Cuomo has vowed to do, said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project.

“The pardons ‘shall not be construed as a remission of guilt or forgiveness of the offense and shall not function as a bar to greater penalties for future offenses,’ the order reads, according to Business Insider.

“They work, pay taxes, and support their families, and they should be permitted to express their opinions about the choices facing their communities through their votes, just as all citizens do,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon is challenging Cuomo for his seat and has been a constant critic of the governor in media appearances and on social media.

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