Can Felons Vote in New York?
People with felonies can vote in New York upon completion of their sentence. They do not need to wait until after they complete their parole.
Until recently, the New York Governor's Office reviewed a monthly list of felons released on parole and determined whether to offer them a conditional pardon to restore their voting rights. That law has changed.
New Yorkers Voting Rights Are Restored After Serving Sentence
On April 18, 2018, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order updating and clarifying New York state's voting laws for felons. According to the executive order, many individuals with felony convictions could legally vote once they have completed their prison sentence, their parole, and while they were on probation (voters did not suffer disenfranchisement for misdemeanor convictions).
In accordance with Governor Cuomo's executive order, the Commissioner of the New York Department of Corrections was required to submit a list of individuals who had been released from prison and onto parole each month. The Governor's Office then would review each individual's case and determine based on their eligibility whether or not the Office would grant a conditional pardon, reinstating that individual's right to vote.
On May 4, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed a bill that automatically brought about the restoration of voting rights upon release from prison, even if the person is on parole.
Voting With a Felony in New York: Steps to Take
Although felon voting rights are restored upon completion of the sentence, they must still register to vote, regardless of their criminal convictions, using a voter registration form at their county board of elections in accordance with election law. Registration can take place in person or by mailing in the appropriate form.
If they need an absentee ballot, a person convicted of a felony need only request one by mail.
How Does New York Compare to Other States?
Every state in the U.S. has its own laws regarding the voting rights of people convicted of crimes. Some states, such as Arizona, Alabama, Tennessee, and Iowa, permanently disenfranchise all felons, other states, like Vermont and Maine (and Washington D.C.), allow all citizens to vote regardless of their criminal history or incarceration. Most states, such as Connecticut, Florida, and Virginia, rest somewhere in between those extremes. Louisiana, for example, will restore voting rights upon completion of sentence, probation, and parole.
Help for Restoring Voting Rights
Regaining voting rights can be an important and empowering experience for someone who has lost them. Even though the laws regarding voting rights for felons in New York state have been simplified, the laws can still be confusing and a violation can have serious consequences. If a New Yorker has questions regarding their own democratic voting rights, they should consider seeking the advice of an experienced civil rights lawyer.