Dems Approve Voting Info Upon Release From Local Jails

Assembly Democrats want to require notice of voting rights for those who are being released from local jails.

The desire is admirable, according to Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, but ultimately unecessary since those in a local jail would have the same voting rights when they leave a county jail as they had when they were sentenced. The legislation would require local jails to provide information reminding those being released they are eligible to vote and a voter registration form. A.4009 passed the Assembly 102-46 recently with Goodell and Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, voting against the bill. Companion legislation (S.5965) has not been scheduled for a vote.

“I wanted to remind my colleagues that if you are incarcerated at a local jail it’s because you’ve been arrested for a misdemeanor,” Goodell said. “No one in New York state loses their right upon being arrrested for a misdemeanor. Your rights to vote are only suspended if you are arrested and convicted of a felony. So there really is no need for this. The individuals who go into a local jail don’t lose their voting rights. When they come back out they have the exact same voting rights they had when they went in. So there’s really no need to notify them of any of this.”

Versions of A.4009 have been introduced in the Assembly in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022. Assemblyman Eddie Gibbs, D-New York City, said in his legislative justification that many people, including state and local officials, are confused whether a person who has been through the criminal justice system has lost the right to vote and, if so, when voting rights are regained.

“In addition in 2021 New York pased legislation to restore rights to vote to people with felony convictions automatically upon release from prison,” Gibbs said. “The state Legislature recognized that facilitating reentrance in the voting process should be an essential component — and I’ll say it again slowly — it should be an essential component of re-entry, rehabilitation and reintegration. So when you’re an incarcerated individual, whether it’s a female or a male, once you’re released, ‘Hey, you have the right to vote.’ You essentially have given that person a sense of being, a sense of belonging. You’re humanizing that person again. You’re giving that person a right to participate politically.”

Voter turnout in the November 2022 election was about 43% of the state’s 13.1 million registered voters. It was lower than the 2018 election which also included a governor’s race but higher than four of the five previous governor’s races. Through Nov. 1, New York had 6.5 million registered Democrats, 2.9 million registered Republicans, and over 3 million unaffiliated voters.

Goodell said the state should do all it can to encourage more voting, calling on the legislature to require voting information to be part of more interactions with the state than just being released from a jail.

“I would also point out that what is unique about this bill is it only explains voting rights to those who have been arrested and convicted of a misdemeanor but doesn’t provide for any voting notification or rights to those who buy a new home and relocated and those law abiding taxpaying residents who have to re-register because they have a new residence,” Goodell said. “And we don’t require a notification of your right to vote when you file your income taxes or apply for a permit or engage in a business activity — only for those who are being released having been convicted of a misdeameanor. And so I don’t think it’s necessary but I certainly appreciate the general perspective of encouraging voting by everybody.”


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