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EMBARGOED UNTIL 12:30PM | October 7, 2010

CONTACT: Sean Barry - (646) 373-3344, barry@nycahn.org

Elected Officials Press For Voting Rights
On Day Before Registration Deadline
Advocates Urge Gubernatorial Candidates To Clarify Stance on
Restoring Voting Rights For 41,000 New Yorkers On Parole

New York, NY – Elected officials joined members of VOCAL New York outside the Board
of Elections in Manhattan today to call for restoring voting rights to 41,000 New Yorkers on
parole. When factoring in those are incarcerated, more than 108,000 New Yorkers are
currently disenfranchised due to a conviction in their past. The rally was timed the day
before the voter registration deadline for the upcoming election on November 2nd.

“Iʼm 51 years old and this November will be the first time in my life I get to vote because
Iʼve either been behind bars or on parole until being discharged last month,” said Ramon
Velasquez, a VOCAL New York member. “Iʼm trying to give back to my community – I
volunteer at a homeless program, run recovery support groups, and support my family.
But I was denied the right to vote until recently just because I was on parole.”

Advocates also urged gubernatorial candidates Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino to clarify
whether they support restoring voting rights for people on parole. “We need a Governor
who stands up for civil rights and commits to end a law that seems designed to prevent
large numbers of African Americans and Latinos from exercising their right to vote,” said
Maria Diaz, a VOCAL member from Westchester.

The current law barring people with felony convictions from voting has a racially disparate
impact given that nearly 80% of people on parole in New York are African American or
Latino. The Brennan Center for Justice released a report earlier this year titled “Jim Crow
in New York” detailing how felony disenfranchisement laws originated during the backlash
against Reconstruction-era equal rights laws and the end of slavery. The report noted that
about one in three Black men will be denied the right to vote at some point given current
incarceration trends.

Assembly Member Daniel OʼDonnell and Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson have introduced
legislation (A2445/S4643) that would automatically restore voting rights for people who
have completed their prison sentence.

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Elected officials who spoke during the press conference provided the following statements
expressing concern about felony disenfranchisement:

“The exclusion of parolees from our stateʼs voter rolls must end. These individuals have
served their prison time and should be encouraged to reintegrate and invest in their
communities, not remain disenfranchised on the fringes of society. With democratic
participation already at low levels, enfranchisement of marginalized groups supports both
good democracy and a stronger society,” said Assembly Member Daniel OʼDonnell.

"In a Nation and State so proud of our 'freedom', its is downright shameful that laws still
exist to purposefully disenfranchise our citizenry. Our State needs to lead the way and not
only allow those on parole to vote but also inform the currently and formerly incarcerated of
their exact voting rights. As a former Chair of the State Assembly Committee on Election
Law, I made it a priority to end these discriminatory practices and introduced legislation to
empower our communities by giving all parolees the right to vote. It is time that we get
back to 'one person, one vote' and away from 'one felon, no vote'," said Assembly
Member Keith Wright of Harlem.

“One of the most important civil right issues facing us today is the rights and dignity of the
incarcerated and newly paroled who disproportionately represent the Black and Latino
populations. It is more than a little ironic, and tragically so, that New York is more than
willing to count inmates for the purpose of drawing congressional district lines, but then not
allow them a vote upon their release. This is a critically important civil rights issue that
must be carefully considered by both city and state governments,” said Assembly
Member Hakeem Jeffries of Brooklyn, a sponsor of the new law ending prison-based
gerrymandering.

“America long ago expanded the concept of imprisonment to emphasize rehabilitation. Itʼs
time to fully recognize that by restoring the right to vote to those people the courts have
deemed to have paid their debt to society and itʼs time for this restriction to be recognized
as the civil rights issue it really is,” said Council Member Robert Jackson of Harlem.

Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL) and the NYC AIDS Housing Network
(NYCAHN) is a grassroots membership organization led by people who are living with and
affected by HIV/AIDS, drug use and mass incarceration.

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