Local lawmakers react to new NYS Bill granting voting rights to people on parole

NY Capitol News

(WETM) – In Albany, a bill passed in the State Legislature, granting voting rights to those on parole. It now sits on Gov. Cuomo’s desk, waiting for his signature or veto.

Supporters of the bill say it is an opportunity to enhance the rehabilitation system already integrated into the correctional system.

“I’m in support of it,” District 125 Assemblymember Anna Kelles (D) said. “I come at it from a very scientific point of view. We have a system of corrections. The intention of it is rehabilitation.”

Critics say those on parole have not served their full sentence and repaid their debt to society, thus they should not have this right.

“The way the law reads your sentence is not complete to complete the whole sentence in parole is part of that sentence,” District 132 Assemblymember Phil Palmesano (R) said.

The central question at the core of this bill is about the debt to society. Does parole count as part of that debt or does parole signify the ability to regain rights?

“Since that [voting] is a right, it gets taken away once somebody commits a felony. It can be reinstated, once they have paid their debt to society. The real question in New York has been does parole count as a part of that sentence and a part of repaying that debt to society,” Czarples continued.

Some believe it is a Constitutional right to be able to vote, just like the basic freedoms outlined in the First Ammendment.

“I don’t agree that it should be a considered a privilege, I think that it should be a right of being a resident of the United States,” Assemblymember Kelles added.

Many Republicans criticize the bill because it does not take into consideration the severity of a crime.

“I think when you look at the heinous some of these crimes I think that it’s really kind of sad and tragic that that’s not even being considered,” Assemblymember Palmesano added.

Parole is granted by the Parole Board based to people who have an indeterminant sentence. These sentences are typically a range of years. Parole can be granted once the minimum sentence is completed.

Legal experts say this bill does not drastically change the current law, which currently stands as a 2018 executive order from the Governor’s office.

“My understanding of the bill is that it actually doesn’t change the substantive law in New York, to a great extent. Governor Cuomo issued an executive order that gave people who are on parole the ability to become eligible to vote based on a very limited and conditional pardon,” Attorney Anna Czarples said.

Currently, people who are released on parole and under community supervision for felonies have to wait months or years to vote until they’ve been discharged from parole or reached the end of supervision.

That can mean a wait as long as five to 10 years, according to bill supporters. Two states — Vermont and Maine — don’t restrict the voting rights of people with felonies, while 14 states allow people on community supervision to vote.

“It is the goal of this legislation to allow individuals who have paid the most significant portion of their debt to society to be provided with a rehabilitative tool of the highest order — the rational reinstatement of their right to vote,” according to a summary of the

More than than 30,000 New Yorkers were barred from voting at any time under the state law until 2018, according to advocacy group VOCAL-NY.

That year, Cuomo began using his pardon power to restore voting rights of people barred from voting under a 2018 executive order he signed.

Supporters say the bill removes any need for that process by restoring the right to vote for all people released from prison, and protects voting rights in case a future governor ends the practice.

“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,” Assembly member Latrice Walker, a Democrat, said.

Individuals would also have to receive notification that their voting rights were restored, along with a voter registration form, under the bill.

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