« Ohio Supreme Court unanimously rejects Sixth Amendment challenge to state's capital sentencing procedures | Main | Another Booker, this one in Florida, prevails on a notable Sixth Amendment Blakely claim »

April 19, 2018

NY Gov Cuomo restores voting rights to parolees via executive order

Restoring_Voting_Rights_to_NYers_on_ParoleAs reported in this local article, New York's "Gov. Cuomo on Wednesday signed an executive order granting parolees the right to vote in New York." Here is more:

Cuomo announced the signing at the annual convention of Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network. He decried the state's current law blocking those who have been released from prison but are still on parole from voting, saying it didn't square with the goals of parole and re-entry.  "At the same time, we're saying we want you a part of society, we want you to get back into the community," he said.

Cuomo said he had proposed legislation to grant voting rights to parolees, but it was shot down by the State Senate — leading him to argue the state needs a new Legislature. But Cuomo said he wouldn't wait that long.  "I'm unwilling to take no for an answer," he said.  "I'm going to make it law by executive order and I announce that here today."

Cuomo signed the executive order later Wednesday afternoon.  There are about 35,000 New Yorkers on parole who could not vote, the governor’s office said.  The executive order will restore the right to vote upon release from incarceration, his office said, citing a disproportionate impact of disenfranchisement on communities of color and links between civic engagement and reduced recidivism.

Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia restore voting rights upon release....

Cuomo’s office pointed to other criminal justice reforms he’s enacted, including raising the age of criminal responsibility and naming the attorney general as a special prosecutor for police-related deaths, arguing he’s long cared about the issue.

Republicans, meanwhile, ripped the order. A "dumbfounded" Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) blasted it as “illegal and horrific public policy.”... Flanagan said that those on parole, including murderers and rapists, are still serving out their sentences and should not be entitled to their voting rights. He said he would not be surprised if a lawsuit is filed seeking to block the order and accused Cuomo of trying to "expand the universe of people who are eligible to vote."

Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, the front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, ... accused Cuomo of being a dictator. "Just months before an election, with the stroke of his pen, Andrew Cuomo, plans to restore the voting rights for cop killer Herman Bell and Palm Sunday killer Chris Thomas and calls it 'justice',” he said. “But if the dictator of a third world nation threw open it's prison doors and granted voting rights to the criminals right before a reelection, we all would be appalled.”...

The New York Civil Liberties Union praised the executive order, but also said Albany should push forward with legislation on same-day voter registration and early voting.

Gov. Cuomo's office issued this press release yesterday with this link to his executive order.  The press releases stressed additional points in support of Gov. Cuomo's decision:

Parole voting restrictions have a disproportionate impact on New Yorkers of color, with African Americans and Hispanic New Yorkers comprising 71 percent of the population so disenfranchised. Civic engagement is linked to reduced recidivism and this action will promote access to the democratic process and improve public safety for all New Yorkers. The executive order is available here. "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," Governor Cuomo said. "This reform will reduce disenfranchisement and will help restore justice and fairness to our democratic process. Withholding or delaying voting rights diminishes our democracy."

This executive action will reverse New York's current disenfranchisement of individuals released from prison who are under post-release community supervision. New York joins fourteen other states and the District of Columbia that restore the right to vote upon release from incarceration. There are roughly 35,000 individuals currently on parole in New York who cannot vote. These individuals are participants in society at large, despite the limitations placed on them by parole conditions. They work, pay taxes, and support their families, and they should be permitted to express their opinions about the choices facing their communities through their votes, just as all citizens do.

Additionally, the current law keeping people on parole supervision from voting is internally inconsistent with New York's approach to voting for people serving sentences of probation. People on probation never lose the right to vote, but many county election officials are unclear about the distinction between those on parole and those on probation, often resulting in illegal disenfranchisement. A 2006 Brennan Center study reported that one-third of all New York counties incorrectly barred people on probation from registering to vote, while another third of all counties illegally made individuals show proof of their voter eligibility status.

April 19, 2018 at 09:43 AM | Permalink

Comments

Thanks, Cynthia Nixon. This is one of many left leaning [right leaning types support this sort of thing, but he is appealing to his left here] he did in large part because of her primary challenge.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 19, 2018 10:16:55 AM

Well, its about time. Finally, a move in the right direction.

Posted by: atomicfrog | Apr 19, 2018 10:31:28 AM

"Parole gun restrictions have a disproportionate impact on New Yorkers of color, with African New Yorkers and Hispanic Americans comprising 71 percent of the population so disarmed."

That's cause gun-control is Jim Crow.

Posted by: Arm the Lot | Apr 19, 2018 12:36:43 PM

I am expecting a claim of the type that we saw in Virginia (and have seen ad nauseum at the federal level over the past two decades) that the executive order exceeds the governor's authority and that the only way to change this is by legislation.

Posted by: tmm | Apr 19, 2018 2:46:37 PM

@tmm

Yes. Even though I agree with the policy goals I think this is dubious behavior from the perspective of political theory. I loathe the idea of a unitary executive and this behavior seems awfully close to that.

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 19, 2018 4:32:31 PM

On the executive power front, it seems the issue would be the breadth of his pardon power. Some states put limits on executive power there. Others, the governor could commute ever drug offense or something, in theory, I gather.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 19, 2018 5:25:44 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB