NEW YORK—Today, the New York State Assembly passed legislation (S830/ A4448) sponsored by Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell and Senator Leroy Comrie that will automatically restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals convicted of a felony. The passage of this legislation comes as states across the country are taking steps to restrict voting access. In contrast, New York State is leading the way forward by expanding access to voting, righting historical wrongs, and strengthening communities.
Assembly Member O’Donnell said: “Parole disenfranchisement in New York was designed to prevent Black men from voting, and we see the legacy of these laws in the largely Black and Latinx parolee population today. With the passage of this bill, we are one step closer to dismantling the vestiges of segregation-era felony disenfranchisement in New York. We are sending a clear message to the rest of the country: the right to vote is foundational to our democracy and should be expanded not restricted.
Our state has served as a model of progressive reform by making voting easier for eligible New Yorkers -- and now is the time to affirm that every citizen deserves the right to vote. Our democracy is stronger when more people can access the ballot, hold their representatives accountable, and show that their voice matters. Today’s vote is an important step toward giving all New Yorkers an opportunity to shape the laws that impact them.
It has been a long fight since I originally introduced this legislation in 2008, but thanks to the tireless and committed work of advocates, organizers---as well as many of my colleagues in the Legislature--we can finally end this shameful chapter of our state’s history and enshrine parole voting rights in our state’s laws. I also want to thank Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes for their critical support. I look forward to seeing this signed and enacted promptly.”
Marilyn Reyes, Board Member of VOCAL-NY, said: “It’s so great that this bill that we fought for so long has passed. This means that the people in my community can now vote and be heard in the community instead of being denied because they were on parole. When I came home from prison, I was told I would never be able to vote again. That was a lie, but I didn’t know. I eventually was able to register after my parole ended, but I couldn’t vote for several years. Now that won’t happen to anyone again and everyone with a record or who is on parole can vote right away. That’s great.”
Sean Morales-Doyle, deputy director of voting rights and elections at the Brennan Center for Justice, said: “By passing this bill, the state assembly has sent a clear message: if you live in the community, you should be able to vote. Disenfranchising people on parole is a vestige of Jim Crow and because of the racial disparities plaguing New York State’s criminal justice system; it has had an enormous impact on Black and Latino New Yorkers. We look forward to the governor putting an end to it by signing this bill into law.”
Bill A4448 improves upon a 2018 executive order granting voting pardons to the 35,000 New Yorkers on parole. Under the current system, parolees may wait between 4-6 weeks to receive a pardon and then must register to vote on their own — a process that is burdensome, resource heavy and confusing for both election officials and newly eligible voters.
Through a simplified, automatic process, parolees will permanently regain the right to vote, be notified of their voting rights upon release, and have a system in place to re-register to vote. This new legislation further clarifies that people on parole and probation can vote, which essentially stops local boards of elections from turning away parolees with voter pardons on Election Day. It also requires boards of election to provide voting education materials to the public, parole officers, and judges.