New York to Restore Voting Rights to Thousands of Ex-Felons

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order could enfranchise 36,000 people on parole.

A demonstrator holds a sign during a rally to demand voting reform in New York on March 18, 2018. Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa USA/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Andrew Cuomo, New York’s Democratic governor, announced on Wednesday that he plans to restore voting rights to ex-felons on parole through an executive order. The move could enfranchise tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

“In this state, when you’re released from prison and you’re on parole, you still don’t have the right to vote,” Cuomo said before a meeting of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. “Now how can that be? You did your time. You paid your debt. You’re released, but you still don’t have a right to vote.”

According to the state’s own figures, roughly 36,000 New Yorkers can’t vote because they’re on parole. Almost half, or 48 percent of those disenfranchised, are African Americans. Nationwide, more than 6 million Americans can’t vote because of felon disenfranchisement laws. Florida is considering a ballot initiative in 2018 to restore voting rights to 1.5 million ex-felons

Other governors have tried and failed to restore voting rights to ex-felons through executive orders. Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued a similar executive order in 2016 but was blocked by the state’s Supreme Court. Instead, he restored voting rights to 168,000 ex-felons on a case-by-case basis.

Under Cuomo’s administration, New York has done little to reform its restrictive voting laws. Unlike many Democratic-leaning states, New York has no early voting, Election Day registration, or automatic voter registration. New York’s Legislature recently stripped funds to establish early voting from its last budget. 

Actress and activist Cynthia Nixon is mounting a progressive challenge to Cuomo, seeking New York’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination. She’s spoken out against Cuomo’s record on early voting.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate