Voting Rights

Gov. Cuomo to Use Pardons to Restore Voting Rights to Some Felons

He faces a reelection challenge from the left, with Cynthia Nixon running on criminal justice issues like pot legalization.


Andrew Cuomo
John Roca/Polaris/Newscom

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today he'll use the power of the pen to bypass a state legislature that has refused to support some of his criminal justice reform efforts.

New York State doesn't restore the voting rights of felons who have been released from prison until they have completed parole. The Democratic governor recently proposed to restore their voting rights earlier, while they're still on parole. The legislature wouldn't bite—it appears all of Cuomo's proposed criminal justice reforms have stalled—so he's taking a different tack: He plans to pardon all 35,000 felons currently on parole in New York so they can get their voting rights restored. And he will continue to sign pardons as felons get released on parole for the remainder of his term. (He reserves the right to not pardon individual parolees if law enforcement representatives express concerns about them.)

The New York Times notes that this doesn't expunge the pardoned felon's record, nor will it restore other rights that have been taken away due to felony imprisonment. Nor is he exactly pioneering new ground: 18 states and the District of Columbia allow parolees to vote.

Using pardons to restore voting rights might sound unusual, but it has also happened in Virginia and Iowa. Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe made a big mess of it in 2016, when he tried to just throw together a blanket pardon of 200,000 released felons rather than pardoning them case-by-case as the law requires.

It's also an election year, and Cuomo is facing a challenge from his left in the form of Sex and the City actor Cynthia Nixon. Nixon is making marijuana legalization, a position Cuomo has been resisting, a central part of her campaign. Cuomo has supported medical marijuana use and decriminalization of small amounts, but not full legalization, even as New York City continues to arrest thousands of people annually for pot possession.

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  1. Nixon is making marijuana legalization, a position Cuomo has been resisting, a central part of her campaign.

    She’s such a Miranda.

  2. Cuomo appears to be exactly the train wreck of a governor that New York deserves.

    1. At least until de Blasio starts showing signs of higher aspiration.

  3. Other than upgrading the bridge between Rockland County and Westchester County, I’m not a fan of his work. We’ve got a Libertarian option for NY Governor this year.

  4. This is a step in the right direction. If Nixon does beat DiBlasio maybe she will restore voting rights to people still incarcerated.

    1. Except she’s running against Cuomo not against DiBlasio. I agree it sounds like she’s just running for New York City but she wants to run the whole state.

      1. Oh shit, right you are. I always get my dirtbag NY executives mixed up.

        1. Saffron coiffed or otherwise.

        2. Mayor of New York is probably more powerful than Governor.

  5. “Anyone on the list would be eligible for a pardon, Mr. David said, so long as law enforcement had not flagged any special concerns.

    The pardon would not expunge a felon’s record nor would it restore other rights stripped from them, such as the right to serve on a jury. Mr. Azzopardi called the executive order a “narrow use of power.””

    —-New York Times

    I’m looking for gun rights.

    If a felon is pardoned, doesn’t that mean he or she can sail though a federal background check when purchasing a gun?

    1. Thry should.

      A pardon effectively nullifues a conviction.

  6. He’s going to restore the gun rights of 35,000 felons?

    1. No. Just voting. Got to do what’s important, after all.

      1. Well, that’s what I was trying to say.

        Cuomo will jump up and down to keep people from getting guns, but when it comes to ingratiating himself to 35,000 voting felons, suddenly guns aren’t a significant problem anymore?

        I want to know exactly what happens to their gun rights and why they don’t become clean as a whistle in a background check after they’ve been pardoned.

        P.S. Are any of these people sex offenders? Is he letting people off the sex offender registry, too, by pardoning them?

        1. If it’s victimless crimes, go for it. If not, it’s a slap in the face to the victim.

          The gun rights on a pardon is a good question though.

          1. Most of the time so-called “sex offenses” are victimless – unless one buys second, third, and fourth wave feminist legal propaganda.

            1. You could probably do to expand your reasoning here.

    2. No, silly.

      “The pardons following this executive order, and all future restorations of voting rights, shall not include rights with respect to the receipt, transportation or possession of firearms as provided by New York State Penal Law Section 400…”

      1. Sounds like he’s working himself into a pretzel over this. He doesn’t want to commute their sentences because that wouldn’t reestablish their voting rights.

        The people of New York should be pissed if the governor is pardoning convicted felons just so they’ll vote for him.

        I’m all for sentencing reform, but this is just wholesale vote buying. He might as well be offering them money.

      2. I wonder how that would hold up under judicial scrutiny?

        It would be funny if a judge ruled you can pick and choose, and all rights are returned.

      3. When you look at #3 in full, He is trying to restore the voting rights of those on parole, but without actually pardoning them. Using his Constitutional authority to pardon as the reason. I could see the courts saying you can pardon or not, but you can’t change the definition of pardon.

    3. Turns out the ability to rip apart human flesh for morally dubious reasons is less important of a basic right than voting for the representatives who govern you.

      1. Voting to imprison your neighbor is violence free!

        1. So you’re saying your neighbors should be able to shoot you if you don’t vote the way they like?

    4. Hell, if he (and Tony) had his way, nobody would have any gun rights, felon or not. As far as he’s concerned, there’s no such thing.

      1. If nobody had a gun, nobody would need a gun, n’est-ce pas? That’s the nature of an arms race. Why not dial it back a bit and save some lives?

  7. Strictly he’s commuting the sentences so these folks aren’t on parole anymore – and since their parole is ended they get their voting rights back under state law. It’s not a full pardon.

    So as I understand it, these people will no longer be under the supervision of the parole system.

    Which I hope is such an inefficient system that removing parole supervision won’t increase the crime rate.

    But the important point is to get these good folks to the polls and vote Democratic. Not after their parole is over, but RIGHT AWAY. Because we have elections to win NOW, darn it!

    1. Correction: Their parole will be made to be over by gubernatorial decree.

  8. No mention of Larry Sharpe? Is this a libertarian magazine or what? If he doesn’t even get a mention here, what chance do we have anywhere?

    1. Good point. Totally forgot he was running. I’m also not in New York, so it doesn’t matter, but he deserves a shoutout.

  9. Few things could be more emblematic of being a Democrat than manipulating the voter rolls in a perfectly reasonable and legal way in a state where it doesn’t matter.

    1. He has to do this now, or that TV Celebrity might win the governor’s mansion!

  10. Cynthia Nixon was the hippy girl in Little Darlings.

    This has nothing to do with her qualifications for office, but it’s one of the great underappreciated movies, so it needed to be mentioned.

    1. And now she’s an orange celebrity riding on a wave of populist distrust! FAKE NEWZ!

  11. Ini adalah langkah ke arah yang benar. Jika Nixon mengalahkan DiBlasio mungkin dia akan mengembalikan hak suara kepada orang-orang yang masih dipenjara.

  12. Allowing parolees to vote seems fine, but this seems like a terrible way to do it.

    First if parole actually serves a useful function then then you’re destroying it for a temporary benefit.

    Second it’s such a huge end run around the law for little purpose. If you want parolees yo br able to vote, pass a law, which apparently he can’t do. And pardoning someone specifically to restore voting rights, but it any other rights is just saying you don’t really feel they deserve a pardon you just want their votes. I wonder of such a partial pardon is even legal. And what’s the benefit? As soon as they complete parole they can vote again, so all you’re doing is speeding up the process a little. It might be a good goal, but hardly worth making a mockery of the law.

    I figured his challenger was just tilting at windmills, but I guess he really is afraid. And this has got to be a great issue for her to use. I mean even if you’re in favor of felons having their voting rights restored this just looks like blatantly using your office got your I weren’t benefit.

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