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Voting Rights Restored, So What

Voting Rights Restored

On May 4, 2021 there was a bill signing. No celebration, No fanfare, nothing. Just a late-night signing of a bill into law. This even though the legislation was one that immediately and directly affected tens of thousands of people within New York State. The Senate bill S.830,Sponsored by N.Y.S Senator Leroy Comrie paved the way, and was then buttressed by Assembly bill A.4448 Sponsored by Assemblymember Daniel J. O’Donnell. This legislation instantly restored the right for all previously incarcerated individuals to participate in this grand and fragile experiment we call the democratic process. 

The irony in all this is I wrote the framework for this legislation while incarcerated in Wallkill, a N.Y.S correctional facility. I worked diligently with N.Y.S Senator Leroy Comrie as soon as I was released to have it passed. What is striking about this is that N.Y.S, The Empire State, the home of the progressives, was 18th in line-order to enact legislation out of the 50 member states of our great union. What is  glaring, is that there has been by relative scale, no outreach action to the same tens of thousands of people who had at that moment been in a sense freed. Yes, I said in a sense freed, and I don’t take this phrase lightly. You see I am a black man, a former N.Y.C Council Member who was convicted, incarcerated, and stripped of my right to participate in the very election systems in which I had on numerous occasions been selected by my community to be their representative in city government.

Although always a black man, I was now a black man who belonged to the demographic which represented well upwards of 60% of the minority population, those who have had negative contact with the criminal justice system. I lost a portion of my life that I had diligently and proudly cultivated for almost a decade prior to my first election. Here’s the rub, after doing a 2-6 year state incarceration, then being released from parole in 2020 my case was unanimously reversed by the 2nd Court of Appeals. My case was then  dismissed in 2021 in totality in my favor in Queens Supreme Court. Most would think, great, you were exonerated, you’re fine. No that wasn’t the case.

Going through depression, P.T.S.D and chronic physical illness I still lived with what seemed to be a dark cloud over my head. With few exceptions’ family, close friends, nothing quite seemed to allow sunshine to push away this dam cloud. Then there was an election, and I got excited, immediately re-registered to vote as I was informed this was needed. I grabbed my youngest daughter and went and cast my ballot. At that moment I had a feeling of pride. This feeling was short lived, later I received a notice my vote didn’t count, why not, what the hell is going on now? The answer, when you are convicted of a felony there is an automatic notification that your right to vote has been stripped, but on the reverse, there was nothing automatic about the process to restore that same right.

This legislation has accomplished that and more. What is  glaring is that there has been by relative scale no outreach action to the same tens of thousands of people who had at that moment been in a sense freed. Voting rights restored, so what.

Last Updated: December 11, 2023

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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.