BUFFALO, NY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he will soon sign an executive order to restore the right to vote for New Yorkers on parole.
"In this state, when you're released from prison and you're on parole, you still don't have the right to vote," said Cuomo, at the National Action Network Conference. "Now how can that be? You did your time. You paid your debt. You're released, but you still don't have a right to vote."
Currently, inmates who were convicted of a felony cannot vote until after their parole sentence is over. Those with misdemeanors can vote using an absentee ballot.
Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-NY-59) believes the right shouldn't be restored during parole.
"I beg to differ— their debt is not fully paid until they've successfully completed parole. Successfully completing parole in a law-abiding way should matter in a restoration of rights such as voting rights," Gallivan said.
Local defense attorney John Elmore calls it a positive step.
"We are all human beings and those who have spent time in prison, when they are released from prison, should be treated like human beings and at some point in time [they] should have all their rights restored, including the right to vote," Elmore said.
This statement from the governor is raising some eyebrows:
"I proposed a piece of legislation this past year that said parolees should have the right to vote. The republican senate voted down that piece of legislation," Cuomo said.
No one seems to recall this coming up during budget negotiations.
Gallivan says it's a power grab.
"It's another example of the governor usurping the authority of the legislature and trying to grab more authority and more power," Gallivan said.
Assemblywomen Crystal Peoples-Stokes calls it a welcome surprise.
"These people have done their time, they are no longer incarcerated," Peoples-Stokes said. "They are in our communities, they are citizens and probably working and taxpayers, why should they not have the right to vote?"
According to the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, over 36,000 people are currently on parole in the state. A little over half are from New York City.
Jon Campbell and Joseph Spector contributed to this story.