by Dale Chappell
Months after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo granted voting rights to most of the state’s parolees, state election websites still say they cannot vote.
More than half the board of elections’ websites expressly state parolees in general cannot vote. In the list of disqualifications on the sites, it says that a person wanting to vote cannot “be on parole for a felony conviction,” but it does not mention that Cuomo granted many such individuals the right to vote.
Only one county website referenced Cuomo’s order allowing parolees to vote: Ulster, located upstate, is far from the bulk of the state’s parolee population concentration.
Election commissioners gave excuses for not updating their websites. Part of the problem is that Cuomo’s order did not issue a blanket right to vote covering all parolees. Adding that parolees can now vote, or removing the disqualifier from the website, would be “misleading,” the Chenango County Board of Elections commissioner said. Onondaga County’s commissioner said that “since there is no change of law... there is no statute to put on our website.” Another commissioner said that since there is no guideline about what to actually put (or not put) on its site, it chose not to put anything on its site about Cuomo’s order.
Criminal justice reform groups have been holding town halls and using text messaging to get the word out, but they have reached just a fraction of parolees affected by Cuomo’s order. Some say making Cuomo’s order an actual law would solve these problems. For now, each county controls its own website content regarding information on who can and cannot vote.
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