Over the last few years, New York has risen as a progressive front runner for election law in the United States. Since the Democrats took control of the legislature, New York has enacted substantial election law reforms including pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds, removal of burdensome identification requirements, and enactment of the Automatic Voter Registration Act of 2020. NYSBA supports these reforms and recommended substantially similar proposals in its Special Committee on Voter Participation 2013 report.
This past week, the New York State Legislature passed a bill that would automatically restore voting rights to individuals on parole. The bill, championed by Assembly Member Danny O’Donnell and Sen. Leroy Comrie, has been in the legislature for several years but finally made it onto the desk of the governor amid a national movement to ensure access to the voting booth. The legislation automatically restores the voting rights for individuals on parole and requires notification regarding forfeiture of voting rights at sentencing and notice of their restoration when paroled.
The concept is similar to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order granting parolees voting rights but it omits one significant requirement of the executive order, approval by the governor. Under the executive order, only those granted a conditional pardon by the governor would be able to vote. This legislation, if signed, will automatically restore those rights and bring New York State in line with several other state laws aimed at ending voter disenfranchisement.
Still before the legislature are two constitutional amendments that would further alter the election process in New York. One proposal would amend the constitution to allow individuals to vote using “no excuse” absentee ballots; the other would authorize same day voter registration.