On Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to unilaterally allow parolees in New York State to vote in elections. The legislature had voted down such a measure just a few weeks ago. Speaking at Al Sharpton’s National Action Network conference in New York City, Cuomo stated, “In this state, when you’re released from prison and you’re on parole, you still don’t have the right to vote. Now how can that be? You did your time. You paid your debt. You’re released, but you still don’t have a right to vote.”
The executive order suddenly allows 36,000 additional voters, presumably all of whom will pull the lever for Cuomo. More than half of those voters live within New York City, The New York Post reports.
Now, this is rather convenient. What would we think of a foreign dictator who, in order to shore up his electoral prospects, simply declared that a class of people who had not been made eligible to vote by the legislature could vote — and oust those members of the legislature? We’d think that pretty corrupt. This sort of activity also lends credence to Republican complaints about Democratic views of illegal immigration — namely, many Republicans believe that Democrats are in favor of more illegal immigration because once in power, Democrats will simply legalize those immigrants for purposes of changing voting demographics.
It’s also rather obvious that Cuomo is making this move in order to placate his left wing base, which has been increasingly enchanted with former “Sex and the City” star Cynthia Nixon. Cuomo doesn’t face a serious threat from Nixon, but he can’t afford to lose his base to an enthusiastic outsider, the way Hillary Clinton did to Bernie Sanders.
In any case, this is foolish policy. The idea of parole is that we do not fully trust you to participate in civic life — if we did, you wouldn’t be on parole. The natural effect of removing the penalties of lawbreaking while on parole would be to increase jail sentences in order to keep those we don’t trust from voting. The whole point of parole is that it’s a trial period for re-entering society on the fullest level.
But when there’s political hay to be made, don’t look to politicians for decent or moral policy.