New York passes bill restoring voting rights of felons on parole

The New York state legislature on Wednesday passed a bill that would automatically restore the voting rights of convicted felons once they are released on parole. The New York Senate voted 43 to 20 to pass the bill, S830B, which amends the state’s criminal code by striking provisions that revoke voting rights of convicted felons in all cases.

Under the earlier law, voting rights would only be restored to felons if “[they] shall have been pardoned or restored to the rights of citizenship by the governor or other appropriate authority of such other state, or [their] maximum sentence has expired, or [they have] been discharged from parole.” The amended language if signed into law will now read that convicted felons serving a sentence of imprisonment shall not “have the right to register for or vote at any election in this state while he or she is incarcerated for such felony.”

Before a felon is released from a correctional facility on parole, he or she must be notified in writing that his or her voting rights will be restored. Additionally, courts must inform defendants on the record before accepting a guilty plea that the defendant will lose the right to vote upon conviction. This loss of voting rights will occur during the defendant’s sentence and the voting rights will then be restored upon release.

The bill codifies a 2018 executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo from 2018 which granted pardons to all individuals released on parole. Under the unamended law, a pardon from the governor was one of the only ways felons could have voting rights restored.

Governor Cuomo received the bill on Thursday. The bill comes as a number of other states loosen restrictions on voting rights for felons. Virginia recently restored civil rights to released felons, and Iowa last year struck down the last permanent voting ban for felons.