Governor Cuomo issued an executive order to restore voting rights for parolees.
Photo courtesy Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed on Wednesday an executive order to restore voting rights to parolees in New York. The governor announced his decision during remarks he delivered at the annual convention of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

“How can this be: You did your time, you paid your debt, you were released, yet you still don’t have the right to vote,” Cuomo said. “I am issuing an executive order giving parolees the right to vote. It is unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have paid their debt and have re-entered society.”

Cuomo said he had proposed legislation to grant voting rights to parolees in January, but it was voted down by the Republicans of the State Senate. Not wanting to take no for an answer, he issued the executive order. New York joins now fourteen other states and the District of Columbia that restore the right to vote upon release from incarceration.

“This reform will reduce disenfranchisement and will help restore justice and fairness to our democratic process,” Cuomo stated. “Withholding or delaying voting rights diminishes our democracy.”

There are currently 35,000 individuals on parole in New York who cannot vote. Parole voting restrictions have a disproportionate impact on New Yorkers of color. In support of the executive order, the governor’s office emphasized links between civic engagement and reduced recidivism and improve public safety.

“These individuals are participants in society at large, despite the limitations placed on them by parole conditions,” Cuomo said. “They should be permitted to express their opinions about the choices facing their communities through their votes, just as all citizens do.”

Brooklyn elected officials welcomed Cuomo’s push.

“It’s about time that New York restores voting rights to men and women on parole,” commented Borough President Eric Adams on social media. “We need to ensure this reform is permanent. It must be codified into state law.”

Councilmember Jumaane Williams, who is currently in the run for lieutenant governor, credited progressive activist voices to Cuomo’s move, but nonetheless supported the executive order.

“Again, Governor Cuomo has been driven to take positive, progressive action by bold activist voices and electoral fears,” Williams tweeted. “No matter the motive, I’m glad that thousands of people will be helped.”

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