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Voting Rights Advocates Celebrate New York Law Reinstating The Vote For Those On Parole

M. Spencer Green

Advocates for voting rights in New York celebrated last week, when the governor signed a law restoring the right for people on parole. Now they say the real work begins.

The bill passed the state House and Senate last month. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law Wednesday, with it taking immediate effect.

Erika Lorshbough is Deputy Policy Director for the New York Civil Liberties Union or the NYCLU.

“The thing we’re really celebrating is that even though there have been opportunities for people to vote since the executive order in 2018, a lot of the time people on parole have not known if they’ve had the right to vote,” Lorshbough said.

Now it’s clear, as soon as a person is released, they gain the right to vote.

Lorshbough said before if someone submitted a voter registration under the assumption that they had the right to vote when they actually did not, that would be against the law, a violation of their parole, and would send a person back into incarceration. Unwilling to take the chance, most people didn’t even bother to try to register.

Phoebe Brown is with the Alliance of Families for Justice, an advocacy organization for people who are incarcerated and their families.

"And this will just continue and boost the work that we’re doing. And give us more work to do, right? Because one thing we’ve found is people who have loved ones incarcerated tends not to vote. So how do we encourage them to vote? How do we begin to help them understand that their vote is impactful?" Brown said.

Brown said it will take a grassroots effort to get them involved in voting. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, there are up to 40,000 people on parole in the state.

Brown said the next step is to reinstate the right to vote for incarcerated people.