Wednesday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that all state parolees, more than 35,000 people, will regain the right to vote. Cuomo tweeted, “Today I’m issuing an executive order giving parolees the right to vote. It is unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have re-entered society.”
Today I’m issuing an executive order giving parolees the right to vote.
It is unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have re-entered society.
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) April 18, 2018
VOCAL-NY, a “statewide grassroots membership organization that builds power among low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, the drug war, mass incarceration, and homelessness”, is one of the many organizations who fought for the rights of felon voters. David Schermerhorn, a community leader at VOCAL-NY, issued the following statement in response to the news:
It’s about time. Politicians have always ignored people like me on parole because we couldn’t do anything for them, now we have a voice. When you get locked up you lose your rights to do everything. Once you get out, it’s basically the same – it’s so hard to get a job while you are on parole – but now one of those barriers is gone. It makes me feel connected to society again. But we have to do more. There are so many elderly people who are eligible for parole who can’t get out. Look at Herman Bell. But now they will have a voice on the outside through us.
The executive order is part of a nationwide campaign to reform criminal justice. Felons denied voting rights combined with racial bias in criminal justice has resulted in dramatic impact on elections. According to a landmark report by the advocacy group, the Sentencing Project, in the four states with the strictest felon voting restrictions, 21 percent of all African-Americans are disenfranchised by felon voting laws in Florida, 26 percent in Kentucky, 21 percent in Tennessee, 22 percent in Virginia. Other findings from that Sentencing Project report include:
- As of 2016, an estimated 6.1 million people are disenfranchised due to a felony conviction, a figure that has escalated dramatically in recent decades as the population under criminal justice supervision has increased. There were an estimated 1.17 million people disenfranchised in 1976, 3.34 million in 1996, and 5.85 million in 2010.
- Approximately 2.5 percent of the total U.S. voting age population – 1 of every 40 adults – is disenfranchised due to a current or previous felony conviction. Individuals who have completed their sentences in the twelve states that disenfranchise people post-sentence make up over 50 percent of the entire disenfranchised population, totaling almost 3.1 million people.
- Individuals who have completed their sentences in the twelve states that disenfranchise people post-sentence make up over 50 percent of the entire disenfranchised population, totaling almost 3.1 million people.