NEW YORK – The New York City Council today passed Council Member Lancman’s legislation, Intro. 514, to require the Department of Correction (DOC) to inform every individual released from a city jail of their voting rights. The Committee on Criminal Justice approved the legislation yesterday.
The bill directs DOC to provide every person released from a city jail with written notice outlining the voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals in New York State, and details on voter eligibility. DOC must also offer every released individual a voter registration form.
“An overwhelming number of individuals released from DOC custody have the right to vote, yet the majority are unaware of that right,” said Council Member Lancman. “We know that rebuilding societal ties reduces recidivism for justice-involved people and my legislation is another step we must take to re-enfranchise those communities.”
“For too long, the incarceration of our clients has stripped them of their right to vote resulting in the disenfranchisement of entire communities, 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 individuals and provide them better access to voting. The Legal Aid Society applauds the Council for passing this important legislation, which is a good first step to begin correcting this injustice.”
“When all community members are encouraged to exercise their right to vote, it strengthens our democracy, makes our political process more inclusive, and affirms the fundamental rights of all New Yorkers,” said Howard Harris, Intake Coordinator at The Fortune Society. “The Fortune Society applauds Council Member Lancman and the City Council for passing legislation to ensure people currently incarcerated and returning to the community will have access to accurate information regarding their rights to vote. At Fortune, we understand the impact that civic participation can have on a person’s reentry experience. As a formerly incarcerated man who had never voted, when I exercised my civic duty for the first time ever this past November, I felt the power of my vote and knew that it could help change the course of an election. This new law will give others the same chance to fully participate as citizens.”