Cuomo to Pardon, Restore Voting Rights to 35,000-Plus Felons on Parole

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo / Getty Images

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D.) will be granting all convicted felons in the state who are on parole a pardon, a move that will restore voting rights to more than 35,000 people.

The pardons would allow Cuomo to work around the state legislature, which has not approved any such measure on criminal justice reform, the New York Times reports.

Under current New York law, convicted felons may only vote again after they have completed their parole or are on probation.

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The executive order excludes parolees with certain firearms offenses.

"The pardons following this executive order and all future restorations of voting rights, shall not include rights with respect to the receipt, transportation or possession of firearms as provided by New York Penal Law Section 400," the order states.

Cuomo made the announcement on Wednesday to Al Sharpton's National Action Network's annual convention in New York City.

"I’m unwilling to take no for an answer," Cuomo said. "I’m going to make it law by executive order."

"With active intervention, we can bend the arc toward justice," Cuomo said.

In addition to those 35,000 Cuomo will pardon, he plans to issue a pardon to each month's convicted felons as they go on parole. The Times reports:

Alphonso David, the governor’s counsel, said Mr. Cuomo would issue an executive order requiring the commissioner of the state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision to submit a list of every felon currently on parole, as well as a list of those newly eligible for parole, beginning May 1. The commissioner would continue to submit an updated list each month, with each parolee "given the consideration of a pardon that will restore voting rights without undue delay," according to a draft of the executive order.

Anyone on the list would be eligible for a pardon, Mr. David said, so long as law enforcement had not flagged any special concerns.

The pardon would not expunge a felon’s record nor would it restore other rights stripped from them, such as the right to serve on a jury. Richard Azzopardi, a spokesman for the governor, called the executive order a "narrow use of power."

Cuomo is in a tense reelection bid against actress and political activist Cynthia Nixon, who has made criminal justice reform a key part of her campaign.