Speaker Carl Heastie and Election Law Committee Chair Latrice Walker today announced the Assembly has passed legislation that would restore voting rights to individuals released to parole supervision to facilitate community reintegration and participation in the civic process (A.4448-A, O’Donnell).
“The Assembly Majority knows that voting is a fundamental right of our democracy and is an integral part of community and civic engagement,” said Speaker Heastie. “This legislation would end the disenfranchisement of people who are actively working to rehabilitate themselves and reengage with their communities and public life.”
“Preventing citizens on parole from exercising their constitutional right to vote is a significant barrier to full reintegration,” said Assemblymember Walker. “Too often members of our communities, who are on parole, are disenfranchised for years during supervision and never register to vote when they become eligible simply because they do not know they have become eligible. This bill restores the right to vote upon release from incarceration to help these individuals fully reintegrate and ensure they do not become permanently disenfranchised.”
“People on parole live, work, and actively contribute to our communities - yet they have no voice in government,” said Assemblymember O’Donnell. “To fully reintegrate parolees back into civic life, we need to recognize that every citizen has equal worth and deserves the right to vote. That’s why I have been fighting for parolee reenfranchisement for more than a decade. With the passage of this bill, we are one step closer to dismantling the vestiges of segregation-era felony disenfranchisement in New York.”
Today’s legislation would restore voting rights to individuals released and under supervision, rather than delaying restoration of the right to vote for months or years until the person has been discharged from parole or reached the maximum expiration (supervision) date. Additionally, the legislation would establish requirements to ensure these individuals are notified that their voting rights are restored upon release. The bill would also require that releasees be provided a voter registration/declination form, assistance in filling out the form, and other voter education materials provided by the board of elections.
Under current law, individuals convicted of felonies who have been released from prison cannot vote while they are under community supervision unless they have had the right restored by a certificate of relief, a certificate of good conduct or a pardon from the governor. In general, New York law allows individuals convicted of felonies to vote after they have been discharged from parole or reached the maximum expiration of their sentences, which might not take place until after a formerly incarcerated person has spent many years in the community. Once supervision is over, many formerly incarcerated individuals do not register to vote because they are not aware that they are eligible. Today’s legislation will help ensure these individuals are able to reintegrate into their communities and limit voter disenfranchisement.
In 2018, the governor signed an executive order establishing a regular procedure for restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals through conditional pardons. Under this system, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) has each month provided a list to the governor’s office of individuals who were released to parole supervision that month. The governor’s office reviews the list and grants these limited pardons. Since 2018, more than 60,000 New Yorkers under post-release supervision have been granted a conditional pardon restoring voting rights pursuant to this executive order. This legislation would eliminate the need for this process.