Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) reportedly granted numerous jailed sex offenders the ability to vote after receiving conditional pardons, according to state records.
New York state announced in April it will restore the voting rights of parolees under an executive order issued by Gov. Cuomo that will impact as many as 35,000 New Yorkers who have served time for felonies, including sex offenders.
Ken Lovett of the New York Daily News writes:
At least 77 sexual predators sent to civil confinement in state psychiatric hospitals after their prison time was up are affected by the widespread pardons, various records show.
While the names of those in civil confinement are often shielded, a comparison of records showed the 77 predators shared one of two addresses — both of which happened to be upstate mental hospitals that house the civilly confined. One of the predators is Hector Aviles, 61, who was known as the “voodoo rapist.” Aviles was convicted of second-degree rape in Westchester County in 2008 after telling three of his victims — the oldest of whom was 16 — that if they participated in a sexual “ritual” with him, he could help them with their problems. If they didn’t, he said, bad things would happen to them and their families.
The rest of the list of 77 is littered with convicted pedophiles and rapists and other violent sexual abusers. All were granted conditional pardons from Cuomo under a new policy designed to give back the right to vote to those who leave prison.
The move adds New York to a list of more than a dozen states and the District of Columbia that give convicted felons the right to vote once they have completed their prison sentences. Republicans immediately slammed the move as bad public policy and potentially illegal, since Cuomo chose to circumvent the Legislature.
Cuomo claimed the voting prohibition disproportionately impacts minorities, noting that nearly three-fourths of those currently on parole in New York are black or Latino. He said giving people back the right to vote can be one way of helping them re-establish ties to their communities as law-abiding citizens.
“It is unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have paid their debt and have re-entered society,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This reform will reduce disenfranchisement and will help restore justice and fairness to our democratic process. Withholding or delaying voting rights diminishes our democracy.”
By issuing an executive order, Cuomo was able to sidestep the state Legislature, where the Republican leaders of the state Senate could have blocked the move. State GOP Chairman Ed Cox has called the order “liberal lunacy,” while Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan of Long Island said he believes the move was Cuomo’s biggest mistake yet in office.
“This is hands-down the most egregious public policy misstep Andrew Cuomo has made in his eight years as governor, and it shows that he will do virtually anything for a few extra votes,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said. “This policy rewards the worst of the worst sexual predators and lowlifes in our society and undermines the integrity of our voting system in every way, shape and form,” the lawmaker added.
Cuomo is facing a primary challenge this fall from Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon, a progressive activist who has accused the Democrat governor of failing to follow through on promises.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.