STATEMENT; Westchester Hearing to Highlight Problems with Voter Notification

Release Date: 
April 15, 2005

New York, N.Y. — New York, NY- Concerned about widespread misinformation about voter eligibility and proper voter registration and balloting procedures in New York State, Unlock The Block: Release the Vote, a New York voting rights restoration coalition that is housed at Demos and includes the Legal Action Center and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, will testify at a public hearing in Westchester County on Monday April 18th.

The hearings, convened by County Legislators Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh) and Jim Maisano (R-New Rochelle), are a bipartisan effort to review election procedures in New York State and propose reforms that will lead to a fairer election system, unencumbered by the widespread problems voters faced in recent years.

"In addition to the 131,000 New Yorkers who are unable to vote because of felon disenfranchisement laws, thousands more do not register to vote because they are misinformed about their voting rights," says Joseph "Jazz" Hayden, Director of Unlock the Block. "This is an unnecessary obstacle that prevents otherwise eligible voters from having a voice in their government."

One solution proposed by advocates is institutionalizing voter eligibility notification, voter registration and absentee balloting in the Departments of Probation and Corrections. Legislators can implement these important changes either by changing the law, or by working to implement new agency procedures to actively educate the public about voting rights for people with criminal convictions.

"We applaud the Westchester County legislature for recognizing that there are serious flaws within the County and State election systems, and for taking the initiative to find effective solutions to those problems," says Erika L. Wood, an attorney with the Legal Action Center in New York City. "This is an opportunity for Westchester County to become a model for other counties across the State by putting in place procedures to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote is given the opportunity to cast a ballot."

In New York, individuals on probation and those who have completed their sentences for felony convictions are able to vote.

Unlock The Block: Release The Vote, housed at Demos: A Network for Ideas & Action, is part of the Right to Vote campaign, a national effort to restore the right to vote to people with felony convictions. Unlock The Block is advocating for legislative change to repeal or amend New York State's felon disenfranchisement statute and policy change to expand and improve eligibility notification, voter registration and absentee voting procedures in New York's criminal justice agencies. www.unlocktheblock.org

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