The Albany County Board of Elections was the least informed
of voting rights for ex-felons among several Capital Region boards and may have
denied many eligible voters access to the booth, according to a BrennanCenter for Justice survey.
election officials required ex-felons to present documents not required by law,
including some that don’t even exist, and the officials also stated that people
on probation cannot register to vote, the center found.
gives people on probation with felony convictions the right to vote. Paroled
felons can’t vote. The distinction is imperative, according to a 2008 report by
the American Civil Liberties Union and BrennanCenter, which said more people in New York are sentenced
to probation than to prison or parole. In 2007, more than 120,000 people in the
state were on probation.
In an initial survey in 2003 to gauge how knowledgeable of ex-felon voting
rights local election boards were, the center concluded that more than half of
the election officials requested ex-felons provide documentation not required,
prompting the state Board of Elections to send out a memo outlining the correct
laws for all the local election boards.
In 2006, the BrennanCenter called all the
local boards to see if they were now better informed and aware of the memo.
did the worst,” said Liz Budnitz, voting rights fellow at the BrennanCenter
at New YorkUniversity. “A representative at
the Albany County Board of Elections got all three questions wrong. They said
people on probation could not register to vote or didn’t know if it was true,
they said ex-felons had to provide documentation, which is not true, and they
said they were not familiar with the memo.”
The Rensselaer and Saratoga
county boards got the two questions regarding the law correct, but were
unfamiliar with the memo. The Schenectady
board knew the law and was familiar with the statewide memo.
Copies of the memo have been re-sent by the ACLU to election boards in all
Sharon Hong can be reached at 454–5414 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information
To learn more about voting rights contact NYCLU Capital Region Chapter at
518–436–8594 or visit the NYCLU Website at www.nyclu.org.
People who have a problem registering to vote because of a criminal record,
or who have trouble voting on Election Day, can call (866) OUR-VOTE.