One of the most persistent rumors to dispel is the one that is believed that once you commit a felony and are convicted and incarcerated, you are barred for life from voting in New York State!
Although other states and municipalities may have this voting restriction, ex or former felons in NYS can re-establish their right to participate in the local and national primaries and general elections by simply filling out a new voter registration form. These forms are available at most library branches, community centers, many churches and civic organizations.
The election process for former felons works this way. Once an individual is convicted and sent to incarceration, their right to vote is abolished until after the time they are released from prison, either by serving their time or being put on parole. During the time period which a person is on parole, they are not eligible to vote because they have not served their conviction time, but have been released due to good behavior or some other factor. After this former felon has fulfilled the time frame of being on parole and is released from the parole system, they can re-register to vote by simply filling out a new voter registration form. It must also be stated and known that the nature or severity of the crime a felon has committed or the length of time he or she has been on parole has nothing to do with whether they can register or in some cases, re-register to vote.
Another misconception is that those who were not sent to jail but granted probation also lose their voting rights. This is not true and has never been accurate. One must be convicted and sentenced to incarceration in order to lose voting privileges. Probation is handed down to an individual convicted of a crime in lieu of jail time for anticipated good behavior. If one is on probation and did not go to prison for his crime; he may have been given a chance to do community service or some sort of restitution to the victim instead of being sentenced to a specific time to serve in jail. These individuals, who were placed on probation, their voting rights were never purged and they can vote in any election as long as they are a duly registered citizen of the United states and are 18 years old or older.
As a citizen and a community activist, it is my obligation and duty to ensure that all who are eligible to vote are given accurate information and the opportunity to cast an election ballot as an informed and engaged participant in the electoral process.
If you need a voter registration to be mailed to your place of residence or mailing address, please call Betty Jean Grant @ (716) 602-5877.