Thursday, March 01, 2007

Raft of Bills Voted Out of Assembly's Election Law Committee

Assembly Committee Reports Voting Rights Notification and Restoration Act

The Assembly’s Election Law Committee had a busy day yesterday, reporting out several bills, including A510, A554, A641, A1539, A1540, and A5432. In the coming days we will provide commentary on several of these.

Today, our first stop is Assemblyman Keith Wright’s Voting Rights Notification and Restoration Act. The bill would notify people with felony convictions of their rights, facilitate voter registration, and improve communication between corrections and elections officials.

What exactly are the rights of people with felony convictions, you may ask? Unfortunately, this is a question that many people with felony convictions and even election officials, charged with enforcing the law, have struggled with. (Check out a study by the Sentencing Project about the perceptions of people with felony convictions of disenfranchisement policy.)

During imprisonment and parole, New Yorkers with felony convictions are not allowed to vote. However, upon completion of their prison term and parole, their voting rights are automatically restored.

As a fairly recent survey by the Brennan Center and Demos showed, there is widespread confusion about the law and how it should be properly implemented. By law, former offenders should be registered by elections officials in the same manner as everyone else, but the survey found that nearly one-third of all counties illegally required documentation before registering eligible voters with felony convictions; moreover, many illegally refused to register individuals on probation. (Check out our report on the findings of the survey.) We are happy to report, though, that elections officials have recognized this problem and are working to fix it.

Assemblyman Wright’s bill, which he has reintroduced in this session (A554), would further alleviate the confusion and misinformation surrounding this issue. Yesterday, Wright’s Election Law Committee reported the bill, which was then referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

We're glad to see this bill make it out of the Election Law Committee, and encourage the Assembly to once again pass this important legislation. We hope to see similar movement in the Senate.

Read more about the restoring voting rights to people with criminal convictions.

Also, be on the lookout for the launch of another Brennan Center page, which will feature our perspective on federal election law.

No comments: