RETURNING THE VOTE

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Election boards in over a third of New York State counties improperly deny voting rights to people convicted of felonies. That finding is part of a report released March 15 by the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law and Demos: A Network for Ideas. Officials in 24 of the state’s 63 counties, including some in New York City, who were interviewed last year denied or did not know that people on probation, and those who have completed parole, are entitled to vote. City Limits first explored the problem in 2003 [see Unshackling the Vote,” 11/3/03], when the New York State Board of Elections issued a memo to each county ordering election officials to use the Department of Corrections website to check parole status. But officials in 43 counties, and all boroughs except Brooklyn, were unaware of the 2003 memo. The study recommends passage of the New York Voting Rights Notification and Registration Act to assist ex-felons through voter registration and absentee balloting, and calls for improved communication among criminal justice and election officials. Notices of felony conviction are now sent to county election boards for the purposes of blocking voting. Advocates say it should be equally easy to automate the sending of notices to the boards when the period of parole has been completed. (M. Lee) [03/20/06]