Ahuge executive order to restore voting rights for more than 35,000 people on parole in New York state was announced ahead of this year’s midterms elections. State Governor Andrew Cuomo made the declaration at the National Action Network‘s (NAN) annual conference in New York City on Wednesday.
The move marked an important step in working to end voter disenfranchisement for hundreds of thousands of paroled Black men and women in New York who are in the correctional control system over felony convictions.
NAN and the Brennan Center For Justice, a New York City-based nonprofit dedicated to pursuing social justice, had been spearheading a coalition called #RestoretheVoteNY to ensure that the initiative to restore ex-felons voting rights gets passed in the NYS Legislature. The campaign is pushing for New York to also notify ex-inmates of their right to vote upon prison release and to provide voter registration forms for them.
Voter fraud and suppression efforts have grown during the Trump administration, with racism cited as the main reason for policies that keep ex-offenders of color from the ballot box.
With the increase in racist disenfranchisement efforts, movements to secure voting rights for people of color have also increased. The Women’s March organizers launched a voter registration tour in January, The Hill reported. A #WakandaTheVote campaign, inspired by Marvel’s Black Panther, was created to encourage folks to register in February. Thousands also registered during the March For Our Lives last month.
The NY voting rights order would grant conditional pardons to parolees who have completed their jail sentence. As of November 1, there were 36,138 people under parole supervision in New York, with 54 percent living in New York City, according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.
This NY voting rights initiative may also stand to influence other forms of discrimination faced by thousands of ex-inmates, who are denied certain jobs, housing and other opportunities for re-entry into society.