State Watch

New York legislature passes bill restoring voting rights to those on parole

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The New York state legislature has passed a bill that would automatically restore voting rights to those convicted of a felony upon their release from prison.

The state Assembly passed Senate Bill 830 on Wednesday. The state Senate approved the legislation in late February.

Under the bill, people convicted of a felony would automatically have their voting rights restored when they are released from prison, even if they are still on parole. The state must notify the former inmate of this right.

The bill is intended to improve on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) 2018 executive order, under which parolees could get a voting pardon and then register to vote on their own.

Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell (D), who sponsored the bill in the lower chamber, said in a statement that the vote brings the state closer to “dismantling the vestiges of segregation-era felony disenfranchisement.”

“Parole disenfranchisement in New York was designed to prevent Black men from voting, and we see the legacy of these laws in the largely Black and Latinx parolee population today With the passage of this bill, we are one step closer to dismantling the vestiges of segregation-era felony disenfranchisement in New York,” O’Donnell said. 

O’Donnell told The Hill in a brief interview that most of the opposition came from those who feel that parole is a “get out of jail free” card. 

“People think parolees get out of jail free,” he said. “If you are on parole. You are living a law abiding life. And if you’re living a law abiding likes you should have the right to vote.” 

The bill comes as Democratic-led states move to expand voting rights, while GOP-led states move forward with legislation tightening restrictions on voting in the wake of electoral defeats in 2020.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a bill earlier in April that would expand access to voting to parolees. That bill is expected to go into effect in January 2022.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) unveiled a set of criteria in mid-March, aimed at restoring voting rights to those that were previously incarcerated upon release from prison. It took effect immediately upon its signing. 


Tags Andrew Cuomo Felon voting rights Jay Inslee New York voting rights
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