Felony Voting Rights

Voter suppression

It comes in the form of “lost” voter records, identification or address requirements. It comes in a more sinister and systematic form of voter purging where unusually high rates of voters were removed from registration rolls that disproportionately disenfranchises minority voters and frankly, the voters that would be traditionally democrat. But the worst and widespread offender of voter suppression is misinformation. It’s rumors and hearsay and downright LIES, especially when it comes to people who have had run-ins with the law.

In the run up to the 2020 election, the debate for universal suffrage and the right for felons to vote continues. Notably, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who outright supports restoring voting rights to felons who are currently incarcerated, which makes sense given that Vermont and Maine are two states that have historically had universal suffrage and it’s not like those states are any worse for wear.

Regardless, here are the relevant facts regarding voting here in New York State:

  1. You MATTER. Your vote matters. Barriers exist, but it is important to get your voice heard and ensure that your vote gets counted.
  2. Once you have completed your sentence, it is up to you to re-register to vote. If you intend to vote, you must re-register. You do not need any special documentation. You can re-register to vote if you:
    1. Have completed your sentence or probation;
    2. Are currently on probation or supervised release;
    3. Were not sent to prison or had your prison sentence suspended;
    4. Were discharged from parole OR are on parole and have had your voting rights restored by Executive Order #181;*
    5. Were pardoned by the governor
    6. Were convicted of a misdemeanor.
  3. Executive Order #181 grants conditional pardons.
    1. Eligibility criteria for voting restoration pardon:
      1. Convicted of a New York State felony.
      2. At least 18 years of age.
      3. Under community supervision by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision following release from a New York State prison.
      4. Current residents of New York State.
    2. For the first set of parolees who received conditional pardons on May 22, each person receiving a voting restoration pardon should have received a paper certification from their parole officer, along with a voter registration form – and everyone receiving restoration of their rights should re-register in order to vote.
    3. Status: If you are serving parole and wish to check the status of your right to vote, you can also search for yourself on the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s Parolee Lookup website and look for the Voting Restoration Pardon indicator.
    4. The pardons are described as ‘conditional’ because voting rights will be revoked if a person returns to incarceration either 1) on a finding that parole has been violated or 2) following conviction for a new felony. The order has also yet to be codified into law.
    5. Review process: Examines each individual and considers 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.
    6. There is no need to apply. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) submits a list of all individuals currently under community supervision to the Governor’s office, and will send a monthly list of individuals released to community supervision during the prior month. Each eligible individual on the list will be considered for a voting restoration pardon.
  4. Who absolutely CAN’T vote:
    1. Are currently serving a sentence in jail, state or federal; or
    2. Are under parole supervision, state or federal, and have not had your voting rights restored

If you aren’t directly impacted by this and have conflicting opinions on a felon’s right to vote, watch these interviews with real New Yorkers on what the restoration of their voting rights meant to them.

Useful links and information