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formerly incarcerated
can now vote



In the year 2021, a momentous and groundbreaking initiative unfolded in the vibrant streets of New York City. This endeavor sought to uplift and empower marginalized communities by amplifying their voices and fostering their active participation in the democratic process. Among the diverse groups targeted for support and engagement during this transformative period were the formerly incarcerated men and women.

It all began with the passage of an extraordinary piece of legislation, the Restore Voter Rights Law (New York State Senate Bill S830B). Spearheaded by the passionate efforts of N.Y.S Senator Leroy Comrie (D) Senate 14 and N.Y.S. Assemblyman O’Donnell (D) Assembly 69, this law ushered in a new era of opportunity and inclusion. It granted immediate and unequivocal rights to register and vote in any election for individuals who had bravely walked the path of redemption after serving sentences for felonies, as well as those unsupervised felons who deserved a second chance at civic engagement. As an additional step towards justice, written notifications were now mandated to be provided to all individuals upon their release, joyfully informing them of the restoration of their voting rights. 

However, even with this momentous legislation, the electoral turnout in New York had been disappointing in recent years. The numbers were disheartening, with participation rates languishing below 47% of registered voters, and sometimes plummeting as low as a mere 33%. Faced with this disconcerting reality, a remarkable organization called Policy, Inc. emerged from the shadows, determined to reverse this downward spiral and breathe new life into the democratic spirit.

From the promising month of April 2022, until the final registration deadline on the auspicious day of June 3, 2022, Policy Inc. embarked on a tireless mission. With unwavering dedication, they devised a series of community-based solutions that would empower and embolden the formerly incarcerated individuals to seize their rightful place in the upcoming election.

Policy, Inc.’s primary objective was to reignite the flickering flames of civic pride and responsibility within this remarkable group of individuals. They understood that by encouraging active engagement in the electoral process, they could restore hope, dignity, and agency to those who had often been silenced by societal barriers. With this noble purpose in mind, Policy, Inc. forged powerful partnerships with Votes NYC, The Crisis Management Systems violence prevention centers, and visionary elected officials who shared their fervor for change. United in their commitment, they set a formidable target—to increase the voter turnout of formerly incarcerated individuals by an inspiring 10%.

Policy, Inc. recognized that knowledge is power, and they harnessed this wisdom to empower their community. They provided invaluable technical support on a myriad of voting-related matters, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for a more informed and engaged electorate. They guided individuals through the intricate process of voter registration, passionately impressing upon them the profound importance of their vote. By shedding light on the inner workings of government, they transformed complexity into clarity, instilling a deep sense of ownership and agency in the hearts and minds of those who had once been marginalized.

At the heart of Policy, Inc.’s grand vision lay an unwavering commitment to drive meaningful criminal justice reform. They recognized that by restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals and actively encouraging their participation in elections, they could reshape the very fabric of society. They sought to foster a more just, equitable, and compassionate world—a world where every individual’s voice mattered, irrespective of their past mistakes or societal labels.

Policy, Inc. beckons you to join them on this momentous journey, as they march towards a horizon ablaze with hope, possibility, and transformation. Together, let us amplify the silenced voices, ensure that every vote counts, and build a society that cherishes justice and equality. With unwavering determination and collective action, we have the power to make a resounding impact and reshape the course of history.

But the story doesn’t end there. As we delve deeper into the annals of advocacy, it’s crucial to shed light on another remarkable bill that played a pivotal role in the pursuit of justice and inclusivity. This bill, known as “
Dept of Correction promoting absentee voting among jailed individuals” (City Council Introduction 0464-2014), stands as a testament to the unwavering dedication of visionary leaders.

Imagine, if you will, the year 2014—when seeds of change were sown in the hearts of those who dared to challenge the status quo. It was during this time that the bill was introduced, championed by a coalition of New York City Council members, including Ruben Wills, Inez D. Barron, Rosie Mendez, Ydanis A. Rodriguez, I. Daneek Miller, Carlos Menchaca, Ben Kallos, Helen K. Rosenthal, Brad S. Lander, James G. Van Bramer, Stephen T. Levin, and Jumaane D. Williams.

This remarkable piece of legislation aimed to amend the New York City charter, etching a pathway to democracy within the walls of correctional facilities. Its essence lay in a noble purpose—to establish a program within the Department of Correction (DOC) that would facilitate absentee voting among incarcerated individuals. It was an audacious move, fueled by the belief that every voice, regardless of circumstance, deserved to be heard.

The bill envisioned a comprehensive system wherein eligible inmates would be offered absentee ballot applications and the necessary means to complete them. The Department of Correction would assume the vital role of distributing requested absentee ballots and providing assistance to inmates who sought guidance in completing them. Moreover, completed applications and ballots would be dutifully transmitted to the New York City Board of Elections upon the inmates’ request, ensuring that their voices resonated beyond prison walls.

The passage of this bill on November 16, 2016, marked a watershed moment—a triumph of compassion, democracy, and belief in the transformative power of civic engagement. It underscored the commitment of council members and lawmakers to dismantle barriers, champion inclusivity, and safeguard the fundamental right to vote. The legislation’s enactment breathed life into the advocacy efforts of Policy, Inc. and its allies, fortifying their mission to empower the formerly incarcerated and expand the realm of participatory democracy.

Together, the passage of the Restore Voter Rights Law and the enactment of the bill promoting absentee voting among jailed individuals serve as beacons of hope—a testament to the tireless efforts of individuals who refused to accept the status quo. Their collective endeavors forged a path towards a society that values the voices of all its members, regardless of their past experiences.

So, my friends, let us unite in this grand endeavor—to elevate those who have been silenced, to cultivate empathy and understanding, and to foster a society where justice prevails. As we embark on this journey, hand in hand with Policy, Inc. and their visionary partners, we have the power to transform lives, rewrite narratives, and create a legacy of equity and compassion. Together, let us breathe life into democracy and shape a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

Important Links

“There’s no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter. It all matters.”

Barack Obama

Senator Leroy G Comrie
Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell

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Section 1

establishes legislative intent

Section 2

establishes procedures and parameters for sealing criminal convictions.

Section 3

establishes requirements for sealed records.

Section 4

establishes authority to promulgate forms, procedures, and processes for the sealing of records.

Section 5

incorporates records sealed under this legislation into exist-ing prohibitions against discrimination.

Section 6

address sealing of corrections records.

Section 7

establishes a private right of action.

Section 8

establishes severability.

Section 9

the effective date.