Voting with a criminal record: What to know after Gov. Cuomo’s conditional pardons

Even though tens of thousands of parolees in New York are now legally allowed to register to vote, many don’t know the right has been restored, the Legal Aid Society said.

Through an initiative to educate inmates at Rikers Island and help those eligible register, attorneys with the Legal Aid’s Community Justice Unit realized there was confusion about what rights they have.

“A majority were operating from the point of, ‘We can’t even vote,’ which is not true,” said Anthony Posada, supervising attorney of the Community Justice Unit.

In an attempt to clear up the confusion, Legal Aid is releasing a new “Can I Vote?” guide, which includes clarification for people who have recently been granted conditional pardons from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The guide will be distributed by attorneys as they continue to help people register, Posada said.

“The most important thing is that the minority communities that have been disenfranchised be provided ample notice that their right to vote is being restored,” Posada said.

The following groups of New Yorkers can register to vote:

  • those with a criminal record who have completed any sentences or parole in the past;
  • residents currently on probation for a felony or misdemeanor conviction;
  • those who are currently incarcerated for a misdemeanor conviction or are in jail awaiting trial for any charge;
  • inmates who are currently incarcerated for a felony conviction but have received a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities for that specific conviction;
  • residents who are currently on parole or post-release supervision for a felony conviction and have received either a New York State Conditional Pardon, a Certificate of Good Conduct or a Certificate of Relief from Disabilities for that specific conviction.

Who is eligible for a voting restoration pardon?

Individuals must be at least 18 years old, convicted of a New York State felony, under community supervision by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision following release from a New York State prison and a current resident of New York State.

Do you need to apply for the voting restoration pardon?

No, all eligible individuals will be considered for a voting restoration pardon, according to the governor’s website. Those who are not granted pardons initially will be reviewed periodically and could be given one at a later date. Other pardons do require an application.

How will you know if you receive a voting restoration pardon?

Parole officers will give parolees the pardons, along with a voter registration form. Individuals can also look up their names on a “Parolee Lookup” to see if they have been granted a pardon.