Parolees and Felons Registered to Vote at Community Event

When I heard about a community event that was being organized by community activist and former Schuele St. resident Jesse Doyle, I jumped at the opportunity to attend and registered as many disenfranchised young and older men as I could. You see, the community block party called EDP (Every Damn Penny), is made up of young men who grew up in the East Delavan Ave/Moselle St. neighborhood. The young men and a few women – decided about 4 years ago to hold a reunion of sorts where they could meet, interact and fellowship together.

They decided to host this annual event because years ago, all of them sold newspapers, collected pop bottles and cans, and hustled the streets gathering “every damn penny” they could find without resorting to burglarizing houses or robbing people. Hence the name, Every Damn Penny or E.D.P.. They young men donated and collected enough money and donations to feed all who came to celebrate with them. Over 500 supporters and community people came, danced, ate and just had a good ole time. I registered over 20 prospective voters at this event.

I arrived at the party to find many fellas, whom I had served in my deli store on East Ferry street over the past 37 years. Some were young enough, when I opened the store in 1980, to come to my store in the arms of their moms. But sometime, between then and now, many of them had grown up, gotten into trouble, served their time in jail and were out now, to begin again, a second chance to live a productive life. I told them that thanks to the Conditional Pardon issued through an Executive Action by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, they will get that chance to register to vote right now instead of when they came off parole; which in some cases, may be years or decades away.

Simply stated, the governor’s Executive Action allows the NYS Dept. of Correction and the commissioners on the Parole Board to consider every individual from prison as a person eligible to register and vote regardless of their parole status. This governor’s Executive Action or Order is huge for our community because over 35,000 former felons are still on parole in NYS and a huge percent of them reside in Buffalo and Western New York.

I was able to get immediate, positive feedback on the governor’s voter restoration program soon after this initiative was launched in May of this year, by registering a well- known, community activist in the prison reform movement by the name of George Baba Eng, the co-founder, along with Sis. Karima Amin, of Prisoners Are People, Too. I attended one of their monthly meetings at the Rafi Greene Community Center, asked Baba Eng to fill out a voter registration form, took it to the Erie County Board of Elections and less than two weeks later, he received his voter’s card through the mail!

If you have anyone in your family that is not registered to vote, they still have time to do as the last day to register in order to vote in the Thursday, September 13, 2018 Primary is Sunday, August 19th.. For those who are registered as a Blank or who did not elect to choose a political party; they have until October 20th to choose a political party in order to vote in any of the Primaries that will be held in September, 2019.

Next year is a very important year for the residents of Buffalo, because in addition to the May, 2019 Buffalo School Board Election, where all seats are on the ballots, the 2019 Democratic Primary will have the offices of the district council members, city comptroller, city court judges and county legislators on the ballot. But as I have stated numerous times in the past, one must be registered in the Democratic Party in order to vote in its Democratic Primary.

Take a moment now and check your voter registration card; it has your political affiliation listed on the front. If it has a D there, you are good to vote in the Primary. If it has any alphabet letter other than a D, you need to fill out a new voter registration form and designate a political party. Everyone, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in the General election, hence the name, general. But, read carefully, only Democrats will be able to choose and vote for their candidates who will run in the Democratic Primary.

Voter registration applications may be picked up at the board of elections office @ 132 W. Eagle St., Monday thru Friday, 9 AM-4:30 PM, or at Grant’s Variety Shoppe, 1055 East Ferry Street. One can also register to vote online. But, since I love doing this job so much, I carry voter’s registration forms with me everywhere I go. The next time you see me in the community or at a meeting, stop, say hello and ask me to sign you up! 

Betty Jean Grant is founder of We Are Women Warriors