States Expand Voting Rights for People on Probation and Parole

05.31.18

Louisiana and New York took steps to restore voting rights for more than 100,000 people with felony convictions who are not currently incarcerated.

On May 17, Louisiana lawmakers passed a bill that restores voting rights to people on probation or parole after a five-year waiting period. Existing law requires people to complete their entire term on probation or parole before they are able to vote. The Sentencing Project reports that 70,000 people are on felony probation or parole in Louisiana.

Governor John Bel Edwards has said he intends to sign it into law. It will go into effect on March 1, 2019.

In New York, Govenor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on April 18 that grants voting rights to 35,000 people who are under parole supervision in the state. Current law bars both incarcerated people and people on parole supervision from voting. Executive Order 181 issues conditional pardons to people on parole that restore their right to vote, while not impacting their convictions or conditions of parole.

Governor Cuomo announced he will continue to issue conditional pardons to new people entering the parole system, but the next governor could stop doing so. Advocates are calling on the state legislature to restore voting rights through new legislation.

After the Fifteenth Amendment barring racial discrimination in voting was adopted in 1870, Southern states and others continued to disenfranchise Black voters through poll taxes, literacy tests, and violent intimidation, killing many Black people who tried to vote. 

Today, years after the Voting Rights Act banned poll taxes, literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and other policies that barred African Americans from voting, one in every 13 Black adults in America is disenfranchised as a result of racially discriminatory felony disenfranchisement laws. The Nation reports that 71 percent of those re-enfranchised by Governor Cuomo’s order are people of color.

Louisiana and New York restored voting rights for more than 100,000 people with felony convictions who are not currently incarcerated.