NEW YORK – The New York City Council’s Committees on Governmental Operations and Criminal Justice today held a hearing to consider legislation on voting rights for justice-involved individuals, including Council Member Lancman’s bill, Intro. 514, to require the Department of Correction (DOC) to inform every released individual of their voting rights. The legislation was first introduced in the City Council in November 2016, and re-introduced earlier this year at the start of the new Council session.
Lancman’s legislation specifies that, upon release from custody, DOC must provide individuals with a written notice on the voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals in New York State, including when they may become eligible to vote. DOC must also offer every released individual a voter registration form.
“We know from efforts around the country that the opportunity to vote and have a voice in government actually decreases recidivism for former offenders because of the greater investment they feel in their communities and the laws that govern them,” said Council Member Lancman. “But having the right and knowing how to use it are two different things. My bill will bring those poles closer together and as a consequence make our city more democratic, more engaged, and even more safe.”
The legislation will supplement new efforts by the City and the Legal Aid Society to help eligible-detainees on Rikers Island register to vote and cast their ballots. The city estimates that 6,000 individuals on Rikers Island are eligible to vote.
“Incarceration does not define our clients on Rikers Island, and regardless of their status they are entitled to express their opinion and deserve to be heard just like everyone else,” said Anthony Posada, Supervising Attorney with the Community Justice Unit at The Legal Aid Society. “The City must do a better job at re-enfranchising justice-involved individuals and given them better access to voting. The Legal Aid Society supports this important legislation that will help correct this injustice, and we applaud the City Council for their leadership here.”
“Exercising your vote is a right that all can agree connects a person to the fabric of our society,” Khalil A. Cumberbatch, AVP of Policy, The Fortune Society. “Councilmember Lancman’s proposal would be an integral step of informing people leaving the city’s jails of their ability to be reconnected to that fabric. We hope that city council would enact the proposal, further ensuring New York continues to be inclusive and embracing of all.”