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Report: NY State Laws Strip Parolees of Voting Rights

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By Kamika Dunlap on February 16, 2010 11:50 AM

Under New York law, prisoners and those on parole are stripped of their voting rights

A new report released, Jim Crow in New York discusses the impacts of the state's criminal disenfranchisement law.

According to the New York Times, the state's criminal disenfranchisement provisions, like those deployed in the South were enacted nearly 140 years ago. New York and many other states adapted their criminal codes to punish those offenses with which they believed freedmen were likely to be charged, including bigamy, vagrancy, petty theft and burglary, according to the report by Brennan Center for Justice.

The report cites this targeted criminalization, along with the disenfranchisement of those convicted of felonies, with suppression of African-American political power for decades. 

In fact, during the Jim Crow era, New York was the only state in the country to require blacks -- and only blacks -- to own real property in order to qualify to vote, the report states.

As a result, these laws have led to criminalization and widespread disenfranchisement, stripping many African Americans and other ethnic minorities of their voting rights.

Currently, Kentucky and Virginia are the only states that permanently take away the right to vote from people convicted of felonies.

More than 108,000 New Yorkers cannot vote because of a conviction in their past.

Prisoners are allowed to vote in only two states -- Maine and Vermont.

Today, almost 80% of those who have lost their right to vote under New York's law are African-American or Hispanic.

Here are some recommendations from the 28-page report:

  • New York should restore voting rights to people on parole.
  • Initiate a public communications campaign to educate New Yorkers about voter registration for people with felony convictions.
  • Launch a statewide campaign to educate and register voters in minority communities.

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