State Watch

Cuomo signs legislation restoring voting rights to felons upon release from prison

getty: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation Tuesday night that would restore voting rights to formerly convicted felons upon their release from prison.

The bill, which the state legislature passed in mid-April, immediately restores voting rights when people are released from prison, even if they are on parole.

Prior to conviction and sentencing, criminal defendants are informed that they will lose their voting rights.

The law was intended to improve on a 2018 executive order that Cuomo signed that would allow parolees to apply for a voting pardon and then register to vote on their own.

New York Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell (D), who sponsored the bill in the state assembly, said in a statement that he is proud “that this legislation removes one more barrier to equal representation in our state.”

“Studies show that when people on parole know that they deserve to participate in government, they feel more connected to the community and are more likely to reintegrate into society successfully,” O’Donnell said. “Together, we have helped New York realize a principle that our segregation-era laws have sought to deny: every citizen has equal worth and deserves the right to vote.”

Let NY Vote, a coalition of grassroots groups aimed at restoring voting rights, said on Twitter that Cuomo signing the bill is “a big step forward to ending Jim Crow-era voter bans.”

The move follows similar action undertaken in recent months by other Democratic governors amid efforts from GOP-led states to tighten up voting rules.

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

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) unveiled a set of criteria in mid-March to restore voting rights to those that were previously incarcerated.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Jay Inslee New York Ralph Northam Virginia Washington

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