Cuomo Restores Voting Rights To Parolees

Governor Cuomo announced he would  reore the right to vote to all 35,000 people on parole in New York and promptly issued the following  executive order:

WHEREAS, the right to vote is a fundamental tenet of our democracy and the underpinning of a representative government;

WHEREAS, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude;

WHEREAS, under the Election Law of the State of New York, no person who has been convicted of a felony, may register for or vote at any election unless they have been pardoned or restored to the rights of citizenship by the governor, or their maximum sentence of imprisonment has expired, or they have been discharged from parole;

WHEREAS, tens of thousands of New Yorkers who are living in the community while on parole are disenfranchised as a result of a prior conviction and their status on parole;

WHEREAS, these individuals are active participants in society at large who, despite the limitations placed on them by parole conditions, work, pay taxes, and support their families and should be permitted to express their opinions about the choices facing their communities through their votes;

WHEREAS, the disenfranchisement of individuals on parole has a significant disproportionate racial impact thereby reducing the representation of minority populations;

WHEREAS, research indicates a strong positive correlation between the civic engagement associated with voting and reduced rates of recidivism, which improves public safety for all New Yorkers;

WHEREAS, restoration of the right to vote is an important aspect of the reintegration of individuals under parole supervision back into society to become law-abiding and productive citizens;

WHEREAS, New Yorkers who are sentenced to a term of probation are allowed to vote in any election, while New Yorkers on parole are not, even though both individuals on probation and parole are serving sentences in the community and operating under similar restrictions;

WHEREAS, Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution of the State of New York authorizes the Governor of New York through his pardon power to restore the rights of citizenship that were forfeited by reason of conviction and a sentence of incarceration;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, ANDREW M. CUOMO, Governor of the State of New York, by the power vested in me by the laws and the Constitution of the State of New York, do hereby order and direct as follows:

  1.  From this date forward, individuals being released from incarceration onto parole supervision and individuals who are currently under parole supervision will be given consideration for a conditional pardon that will restore voting rights without undue delay.  Effective immediately, the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision shall submit a record of individuals who are currently under parole supervision to the Governor’s Office.  Beginning May 1, 2018, the Commissioner shall submit a monthly record of individuals who have been released from prison onto parole supervision in the prior month.  Each individual on the eligible list will be reviewed to determine whether he or she will be granted a pardon that will restore voting rights.
  2.  Notwithstanding this executive order, offenders may still apply for a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities for a restoration of citizenship rights pursuant to New York Correction Law Article 23.  All applications, unless withdrawn, will be processed according to the procedures set forth in New York Correction Law.

           III.         The pardons following this executive order, and all future restorations of voting rights, shall not include rights with respect to the receipt, transportation, or possession of firearms as provided by New York State Penal Law Section 400, nor shall it relieve an individual of any unpaid restitution, fine, or other financial obligation resulting from a conviction, nor shall it restore the right to hold public office, nor shall the order cause the underlying conviction to be sealed.

  1.  This executive order, and all future restorations of voting rights, shall not be construed as a remission of guilt or forgiveness of the offense and shall not function as a bar to greater penalties for future offenses.  Nothing in the executive order shall be construed to contravene any applicable state or federal law.

G I V E N   under my hand and the Privy Seal of the State in the City of Albany this eighteenth day of April in the year two thousand eighteen.

BY THE GOVERNOR

Secretary to the Governor

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Assembly Passes Legislative Package To Expand Voting Opportunities For New Yorkers

From an Assembly press release:
Package Includes Measure to Bring Fairness and Transparency to
Elections by Closing the LLC Loophole

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Election Law Committee Chair Charles Lavine today announced the Assembly has passed a package of legislation designed to increase voting opportunities, modernize the voter registration process and create greater transparency and accountability in elections by closing the Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) loophole.

“For years, the Assembly Majority has fought to protect New York’s electoral process by proposing legislation to ensure eligible voters are given ample opportunities to vote and have access to a simple, modern registration process,” said Speaker Heastie. “Year after year, we have also passed legislation to close the LLC Loophole and ensure fairness in state elections. We urge our colleagues in the Senate to join us in protecting the integrity of state political campaigns.”

“The measures approved today by the Assembly would strengthen our electoral process by ensuring voter accessibility, facilitating participation and improving transparency in campaign financing,” said Assemblymember Charles Lavine. “Our democratic process is dependent on our ability to ensure that New Yorkers are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote with ease.”

To ensure accessibility, equity and efficiency in the state’s electoral process, the package includes legislation that would establish a seven-day early voting period for registered New York voters to vote in person prior to any primary, special or general election day (A.9608-B, Lavine). Each county would be required to provide a set amount of early voting hours, but would have the flexibility to offer hours that best meet the needs of its residents.

Another bill would amend the New York State Constitution to allow no excuse absentee voting (A.7623, Vanel). Under current law, absentee voting is only allowed if an individual expects to be absent on Election Day, or is unable to get to the polls because of physical illness or disability. This measure offers a more equitable voting experience by allowing busy New Yorkers more options for casting their ballots.

“There is no reason to restrict absentee voting eligibility requirements for New Yorkers to such narrow criteria,” said Assemblymember Clyde Vanel. “By providing voters with more options for exercising their right to vote, we can ensure that no one misses this important part of our democratic process for lack of convenience.”

The legislative package also includes the Voter Enfranchisement Modernization Act of 2018 that would modernize and streamline voter registration by establishing an online voter registration process (A.5382-A, Cusick).

“In 2018, modern technology allows us to conduct countless transactions online, including many state and federal applications,” said Assemblymember Michael Cusick. “It is past time that we modernize New York’s antiquated system by creating a streamlined online registration process to ensure greater accessibility.”

The Assembly has also passed legislation that would restrict LLC campaign contributions to the same $5,000 aggregate contribution limit that exists for corporations (A.9758, Simon). The bill would also require the disclosure of all direct and indirect owners of the LLC and that all contributions by an LLC be attributed to each member in proportion to each member’s ownership interests. Under current law, as interpreted by the State Board of Elections, a single individual is allowed to make multiple large contributions to the same candidate or committee through separate LLCs making it difficult to determine who made the contributions and evaded individual contribution limits.

“The LLC loophole allows the wealthy and special interests to anonymously pour unlimited money into campaigns in hopes of influencing candidates,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “The Assembly Majority has repeatedly passed this critical piece of campaign finance reform legislation. New Yorkers deserve greater transparency and fairness in the electoral process, and closing the notorious LLC loophole is an important step forward.”

Earlier this year, the Assembly passed other legislation to increase accessibility for voters and modernize polling sites, including a measure that changed the fall 2018 primary date from Tuesday, September 11th to Thursday, September 13th to ensure that all New Yorkers are able to participate in the election. The Assembly also passed legislation that would modernize polling sites and facilitate early voting by allowing electronic poll books containing voter registration lists to be used at poll sites.

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NYC Council Member To Propose Campaign Finance Changes

In the Gotham Gazette,  Samar Khurshid reports “City Council Member Keith Powers, a former lobbyist who ran for election on a platform that included a 22-point electoral and government reform agenda, is introducing a package of legislation to make small but significant changes to the city’s campaign finance program.

Powers, a Manhattan Democrat, is proposing five bills, to be introduced at the next full meeting of the City Council, on Wednesday, that will change campaign finance thresholds and reporting requirements, with the goal of making running for elected office easier for first-time candidates and those with little access to wealthy donors.”

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Experts: Census Citizenship Query Could Hurt N.Y.

Joe Mahoney reports how a  “citizenship question added to the 2020 census is likely to have major impacts on New York’s representation in Congress and the state’s share of federal aid for hospital and road projects, policy experts say.

Some contend the question will even drive down census participation to the point that state legislative lines will have to be redrawn.”

He adds a quote from me:  “(t)he reason for the concern, said Jeffrey Wice, a research fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany, is that many non-citizens residing in the country, here legally or otherwise, may want to avoid the census altogether because of the Trump administration’s effort to crack down on undocumented workers and focus on border security.

“Adding a citizenship question really throws a monkey wrench into the calculations because we really have no idea what the impact could be,” Wice said in an interview.”

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State Board Of Elections Moves To Control Sugarman

Chris Bragg reports in the Times Union: “The politically appointed commissioners of the state Board of Election plan to vote Thursday on a rules change granting them more control over the investigations by Risa Sugarman, the board’s chief enforcement counsel.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, after reviewing the proposed regulations. “Scandals everywhere, a terrible campaign finance system — and the only thing the parties can agree to do is knock out the few teeth that existed for this watchdog.”

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Steve Choi & Jeff Wice: Accurate 2020 Census Count Will Empower State Residents

New York Immigration Coalition Director Steve Choi and I have an oped in today’s Albany Times Union on the 2020 census:

“But there is a way to ensure that every single New Yorker is counted. A new, broad-based statewide coalition — New York Counts 2020 — will provide analysis and expertise to help count every person in this state. There are various avenues to increase census counting, including a “census complete commission” enacted in the new state budget. Local municipalities could help drive the process through the Local Update of Census Addresses program, which allows state, local and tribal governments to review and update the Census Bureau’s address list and digital maps, reflecting their knowledge of non-traditional and low visibility housing in their communities.”

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Michael Pernick On Campaign Finance Reform

Paul Weiss attorney Michael Pernick recently taped a video on campaign finance reform  for the New Leaders Council. You can view it here:

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