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Albany board short on voting rights

Survey says improper instructions provided to ex-felons, parolees.

Published: October 10, 2008

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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 Brennan Center for Justice survey.

Albany 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.

New York 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 Brennan Center, 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 Brennan Center called all the local boards to see if they were now better informed and aware of the memo.

Albany County did the worst,” said Liz Budnitz, voting rights fellow at the Brennan Center at New York University. “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 four counties.

Sharon Hong can be reached at 454–5414 or by e-mail at

For more information

To learn more about voting rights contact NYCLU Capital Region Chapter at 518–436–8594 or visit the NYCLU Website at

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.

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