O’Donnell Bill Restoring the Vote to People on Parole Becomes Law

This new law confirms New York’s standing as leader in voting rights just as state legislatures across the country restrict access to the ballot box.

NEW YORK— Last night, Governor Cuomo signed legislation (S830/ A4448) sponsored by Senator Leroy Comrie and Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell that will automatically restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals convicted of a felony. The new law is the latest in a series of steps that New York has taken to change its antiquated voting laws, which just a few years ago were among the most restrictive in the country.

NYS Senator Leroy Comrie said: "Felony disenfranchisement is a relic of Jim Crow America, so there is no need to wonder why it disproportionately impacts people of color and the poor. We can no longer stand by and allow poverty to be criminalized. I commend my colleagues in government for helping us to codify into law the access to vote for the formerly incarcerated. Across our nation we see voting rights being restricted and as New Yorkers, we have to lead as that sends a signal to others on how we should be making the right to vote, more accessible, more transparent, and more available to all. I thank Assembly Member O’Donnell for his leadership and applaud the advocates who were steadfast in the fight alongside us to see the passage of this bill.”

 Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell said: “Voting is a fundamental right, and no one should have to fight to access that right. For the past two years, we made history by passing sweeping legislation that made voting easier in New York. Now, we go further by expanding voter eligibility to those on parole. For too long, restricting the right to vote has been used as a tool to silence and exclude communities of color. I am proud that this legislation removes one more barrier to equal representation in our state. Studies show that when people on parole know that they deserve to participate in government, they feel more connected to the community and are more likely to reintegrate into society successfully. I thank Senator Comrie and all the advocates for their tireless efforts. Together, we have helped New York realize a principle that our segregation-era laws have sought to deny: every citizen has equal worth and deserves the right to vote.”

The newly signed law amends election law to require the automatic restoration of voting rights upon a New Yorker’s release from prison. Under this new system, criminal defendants will be informed before conviction and sentencing to prison that they will lose their voting rights. Prior to their release, the Department of Corrections and Probation and Parole will assist with voter registration to ensure a smooth transition to civic participation.

By clarifying that people on parole and probation can vote, the law stops local boards of elections from turning away parolees on election day. It also requires boards of election to provide voting education materials to the public, parole