Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Yorkers Take Action to Restore Voting Rights

Cross-posted from

The effort to restore voting rights in New York is gaining momentum. Today, over 100 New Yorkers sent postcards to their legislators and Governor Paterson urging them to restore the right to vote to people in New York who are on parole and probation.

New York law disenfranchises individuals in prison or on parole. As we have mentioned in previous posts, this law has a stark impact on people of color. A new Brennan Center report, titled Jim Crow in New York, confirms that the current criminal disenfranchisement law traces back to a century-long effort to keep African-American citizens out of the voting booth. As a result, over 80% of those denied the right to vote in the Empire State are African-American or Latino.

And New Yorkers are finally calling on our state leaders to end this injustice.

This writing campaign stems from a lively public conversation held at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture on this very issue. The discussion included Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III from the Abyssinian Baptist Church of the City of New York, Hazel Dukes from the NAACP New York State Conference, Glenn Martin from the Fortune Society, and Columbia Law Professor Theodore Shaw.

Hopefully Albany will heed its constituents’ demands. There are several bills pending in both the Assembly and the Senate that would restore the right to vote to people with a prior criminal conviction.

Among them is legislation introduced by Assemblyman O’Donnell and Senator Thompson that restores voting rights to people on parole. The bills have been referred to the Assembly Committee on Election Law and the Senate Committee on Elections.

Senator Montgomery and Assemblyman Wright have also introduced the Voting Rights Notification and Registration Act that would help eliminate some of the confusion about who is eligible to vote. The bill would require the Department of Corrections and the Board of Parole to provide information to individuals about their voting rights once they regain eligibility. The bill passed the full Assembly in June 2009 and is currently pending in the Senate Elections Committee. (The Brennan Center testified in favor of this bill in April 2009). Similar bills have passed the Assembly twice before.

Contact us to request postcards to tell your elected officials that it is time to restore voting rights to people with prior convictions.

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