3 sheriffs, Senate candidate oppose Cuomo decision on parolee voting

September 10, 2018 06:25 PM

TROY - Sex offenders or murderers may be voting at your polling location this Thursday. That's because Governor Andrew Cuomo granted a blanket pardon allowing 24,000 parolees to vote. He said it will help reduce recidivism.

Many are outraged by the decision, including New York State Senate candidate Daphne Jordan. She is proposing legislation that would permanently revoke voting rights from level 3 sex offenders and murders. She was joined by Rensselaer County Sheriff Pat Russo, Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo, Columbia County Sheriff David Bartlett, and Assemblyman Jake Ashby at a press conference on Monday.

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Cuomo said prior restrictions have had a disproportionate impact on black and Hispanic New Yorkers. He argues these conditional pardons will help reverse that effect. Critics, like Jordan, say he's gambling with public safety.

"I believe when you commit a serious violent crime you lose certain rights and the fact that your prison sentence is up and you're allowed back into the community, you can still be limited to certain things,” Jordan said.

Jordan is one of the people concerned about parolees going into hundreds of schools that serve as polling locations to cast their ballots. However, there are some conditions.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections released this statement with regard to sex offender parolees:

“A Parolee is required to advise the Parole Officer of his/her intention to vote and identify the polling location as a school.  This special condition dictates that the Parolee must receive written permission from both their Parole Officer and school superintendent/school administrator in order to vote. The parolee must also inform their PO of their travel plans to and from the school in advance of the election day."

All parolees can only vote at school polling locations after 7 p.m. but some are worried children may still be there.

"He set up the guideline for 7 o'clock but we all know school activities go to 9:30, 10 o'clock,” Saratoga County Sheriff Michael Zurlo said. “Who's going to monitor these people as they come into the schools?"

Though some are calling the decision unconscionable, New York is on par with 16 other states that have restored convicted felons voting rights after they've been released from prison.

After signing the executive order, Cuomo released this statement:

"Restoring a voice to men and women reentering their communities will strengthen our democracy, as well as the reentry process, which in-turn will help reduce recidivism."

Jordan hopes the next governor reverses Cuomo's decision. If not, she's hoping to win the 43rd district seat and get this legislation passed herself. Her opponent is Democrat Aaron Gladd, who could not be reached for comment.


Emily Burkhard

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