New York

Despite the Republican-controlled New York state senate voting down a bill giving parolees the right to vote, ex-felons will be re-enfranchised via executive order.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday afternoon an executive order allowing all ex-felons who have served their sentences in prison to be allowed to vote.

“I proposed a piece of legislation … this past year that said parolees should have the right to vote,” Gov. Cuomo said during a Wednesday press conference. “The Republican Senate voted down that piece of legislation, which is another reason why we need a new legislature this November. But I’m unwilling to take no for an answer. I’m going to make it law by executive order and I announce that here today.”

The Brennan Center for Justice — which is based in the New York University School of Law — estimates that approximately 35,000 felons will be re-enfranchised as a result of Gov. Cuomo’s executive order. When including New York, there are now 17 states (plus Washington DC) that allow everyone in a community to vote regardless of their status as a formerly incarcerated person.

There may likely be political motivation behind Gov. Cuomo’s decision to re-enfranchise 35,000 parolees, given his primary battle with actress Cynthia Nixon, who is running to the left of Cuomo. The incumbent Democratic governor, who is running for his third term, has recently flip-flopped on multiple issues, including legalizing marijuana (he opposed legalization as recently as February), labor unions (he vowed to spend millions in 2010 opposing unions and supporting corporate power), and fixing the New York City subway system (Gov. Cuomo hinted the NYC subway system wasn’t his problem last July).

A recent poll showed Gov. Cuomo leading Cynthia Nixon by 31 points in a Siena College poll. However, that’s still a significant improvement for Nixon, as the Democratic challenger gained 16 points in approval following the last Siena poll. New York voters will choose the Democratic nominee (and likely future governor) on September 13, giving Nixon plenty of time to catch up.


Logan Espinoza is a freelance contributor specializing in economic issues. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and daughter. Contact him at logan DOT espinoza AT yahoo DOT com.

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