Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has signed a bill granting ex-prisoners automatic voting rights. According to NBC, the signing of S 830B into law would restore voting rights to an estimated 35,000 people.
“Over the past several years, New York has been a national leader in the election and criminal justice reforms, and felony disenfranchisement is a vestige of Jim Crow-era voting restrictions,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I strongly believe that restoring the right to vote to people who have paid their debt to society strengthens our democracy, promotes successful reentry into the community, and makes New York a safer and fairer place to live.”
Parolees had to wait four to six weeks for a pardon under Governor Cuomo’s executive order from 2018, in which they could register to vote on their own. Since then, the governor has issued 67,000 conditional pardons, allowing those on parole to vote again. According to the governor’s office, almost 70% of those unable to vote while on parole were Black. This legislation nullifies the pardon and allows Department of Corrections officials to provide the felon with a voter registration form, a declination form, and details about the value of voting as they exit the facility.
It also requires courts to inform defendants that if they sign a guilty plea, they will forfeit their right to vote when serving their sentence. New York Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, who sponsored the bill, said in a statement that he is proud that “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.” This legislation goes into effect right away.