Watch LIVE

New York to allow convicted felons who are out on parole to vote

News
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is restoring voting rights to convicted felons who are out on parole. Cuomo is enacting the new provision through executive order, circumventing the Republican-controlled state Senate, which had opposed the move. (2016 file photo/Gregg Newton/Getty Images)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is restoring voting rights to convicted felons who are out on parole. The move could affect roughly 35,000 parolees before New York’s 2018 gubernatorial election.

Cuomo made the announcement at the annual convention for the National Action Network, a group founded in 1991 by the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Cuomo is enacting the new provision via executive order, circumventing the Republican-controlled state Senate, which had opposed the move.

“With active intervention, we can bend the arc toward justice,” Cuomo said in his speech, in which he also declared that he is “unwilling to take no for an answer” after the state Senate voted down a measure to restore voting rights last year.

How would the new law work?

The commissioner of New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision would have to submit a list of felons on parole or eligible for parole. This would take effect on May 1 and then be updated monthly.

Anyone on this list would be eligible for a “conditional pardon.” This pardon would apply only to voting rights and would not clear a felon’s record or affect their parole in any other way.

By issuing these pardons to specific parolees like this, Cuomo is able to grant voting rights without having to change New York state law, which will still state that felons are not eligible to vote until they have finished their parole.

Standing next to former Attorney General Eric Holder, Cuomo boasted about using his executive power to go around the state Senate:

I proposed a piece of legislation, [Attorney] General Holder, this past year, that said parolees should have the right to vote. But the Republican Senate voted down that piece of legislation — which is another reason why we need a new legislature this November. But, I’m unwilling to take "no" for an answer, I’m gonna make it law by executive order, and I announce that here today.

New York is not the first state to try this

Eighteen other states and the District of Columbia allow parolees to cast ballots. Virginia and Ohio both have a similar method of using executive orders to restore voting rights.

Why is Cuomo doing this now?

Cuomo is up for re-election in November. Although he is staunchly liberal, Cuomo is seen as less left-wing than his primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon. Nixon has been capitalizing on this image, painting Cuomo as a centrist and stealing a significant amount of his support. This move on voting rights could help Cuomo to appeal more to his base.

Most recent
All Articles