Democrats and Republicans have different views over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D-New York) recent decree to restore voting rights to people who were convicted yet on parole.
Cuomo made the announcement on April 19 at the annual convention of the civil rights group National Action Network. New York joins 18 other states that allow paroled felons to vote.
“It is unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have paid their debt and have re-entered society,” Cuomo said.
The executive order notes the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision will submit a list of those under parole to the Governor each month. Then Governor Cuomo would grant a pardon to the people he chooses. It could add up to 35,000 more eligible voters.
Republican officials criticized the Governor’s decision for a variety of reasons, such as an attempt to bypass legislators. Others feel people convicted of serious violent crimes such as murder and rape should automatically disqualify them from voting, and it tramples on the rights of their victims.
David Bressler, a Republican candidate and businessman running against State Assemblymember Ed Braunstein (D-Auburndale, Bay Terrace, Bayside, Bayside Hills, Broadway-Flushing, Douglaston, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, North Shore Towers, Oakland Gardens, Whitestone), called it a mistake with no public debate over the issue.
“When I’m in Albany, this will not happen,” said Bressler. “Outrageous public policy such as this order decreed by the governor has no place in civil society.”
Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, welcomed the announcement. State Assemblymember David Weprin (D-Richmond Hill, Fresh Meadows), who chairs the Assembly’s Corrections committee, supported the act as he felt such people needed help to reintegrate into society.
“What better way to integrate into society by becoming voters and participating in the political process,” he said.
State Assemblymember Clyde Vanel (D-Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Hollis, Queens Village, Bellerose, Floral Park), a member of the Elections Law committee, also supported the Governor’s decision.
“It is important that we make sure that New Yorkers are not disenfranchised with the respect for the right to vote. The right to vote is fundamental and we will fight to expand this fundamental franchise,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vickie Paladino, a Republican running for State Senate in the 11th District, called Cuomo’s decision a “naked power grab” influenced by his primary challenger Cynthia Nixon. While she felt no one should be permanently disenfranchised from voting, Paladino said those convicted should “serve their full term,”
“This action accomplishes both. If he were so concerned about voting rights for parolees he would have taken this action earlier in his term, not a few months before an election. Actions like this demonstrate how far left the mainstream Democratic party is willing to go,” she said.