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NY Governor Andrew Cuomo signs bill restoring voter rights for felons upon release

“I strongly believe that restoring the right to vote to people who have paid their debt to society strengthens our democracy,” Governor Cuomo said.

Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that will automatically give ex-prisoners the right to vote. By signing S 830B into law, NBC reports an estimated 35,000 people will have their voting rights restored.

“Over the past several years, New York has been a national leader in 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.

Under Governor Cuomo’s executive order from 2018, parolees had to wait a period of four-to-six weeks to receive a pardon and then could register to vote on their own. Since then, the governor has granted 67,000 conditional pardons that restored voting rights for those on parole. Nearly 70% of those who were unable to vote while on parole were Black, according to the governor’s office. This law removes the pardon and requires Department of Corrections’ officials to provide a voter registration form, a declination form, and information on the importance of voting to the felon on their way out the facility.

It also mandates courts must tell defendants that if they accept a guilty plea, while they serve their sentence they will lose their right to vote. The bill’s sponsor, New York Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, 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.” The law is effective immediately.

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