More Than 24,000 Individuals Included in First Group of Conditional Pardons
Restores the Right to Vote for Individuals Released from Prison and Living Successfully Under Community Supervision
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced today that he has issued the first set of conditional pardons restoring the right to vote to 24,086 people under community supervision in New York State. Building on the Governor's sweeping criminal justice reforms, this group of pardons follows the Executive Order signed on April 18 to improve civic engagement and reduce recidivism. New York State Election law provides that a Governor's pardon restores the right to vote to individuals who lose this right due to being on parole for a felony that resulted in their incarceration.
"The right to vote is fundamental and it is unconscionable to deny that basic right of citizenship to New Yorkers who have paid their debt to society," Governor Cuomo said. "Restoring a voice to men and women reentering their communities will strengthen our democracy, as well as the reentry process, which in-turn will help reduce recidivism."
The Governor's action to grant these conditional pardons reverses individual restrictions that have had a disproportionate impact on New Yorkers of color. African Americans and Hispanic New Yorkers comprise 71 percent of the population disenfranchised due to their parole status. The restoration of this basic right is linked to reduced recidivism, and this action will promote access to the democratic process and improve public safety, as individuals who can vote and participate in civil society have a greater stake in living productively in their communities.
Click here to hear in their own words what being able to vote means to individuals under parole supervision.
The Governor's pardon review process examined each person and considered a variety of factors, including if the person is living successfully in the community by maintaining required contact with his or her parole officer and remaining at liberty at the time of the review. The remaining applications are being reviewed and processed. This process will be repeated every month. Conversely, if a pardon recipient is re-incarcerated in New York State prison as a result of a parole violation, or as a result of a conviction for a new felony, their pardon will be revoked.
The pardons issued today exclusively restore the right to vote and they have no other effect on a person's conviction or status.
Each person who receives a pardon will be given a copy of their pardon by their parole officer, along with a voter registration form. More information about the review and notification process can be found on the Governor's clemency website.
New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, "These pardons will encourage civic participation, make our political process more inclusive, and affirm the fundamental rights of all New Yorkers. Voting is the right we exercise to protect all others, and this progressive action will strengthen New York's democracy. The work now falls to communities across the state to ensure parolees are registered, engaged and heard."
Sean Morales-Doyle, Counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said, "This first group of pardons is an important and meaningful step in the right direction. We should all be striving for a seamless re-entry process. There are now 24,000 citizens who are living and working in the community who can finally have a voice in our democracy."
Reverend Al Sharpton, President & Founder of the National Action Network said, "I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking action to ensure members of our community are afforded the opportunity to have their voices heard. By delivering this basic right of citizenship, individuals who are acclimating back into society will be empowered to contribute to New York's democratic process and in turn, help support a better, stronger state for generations to come."
VOCAL-NY Co-Executive Director Alyssa Aguilera said, "Voting restrictions such as those addressed by the Governor today developed out of specific intentions to disenfranchise people of color and Black people specifically following emancipation. New York has finally taken this crucial step forward to restore voting rights to people on parole who never should have been disenfranchised to begin with. We look forward to working with the Governor to convert this executive order into legislation to formalize this victory and set what we hope will be a national standard."