BY JOSH TOWNER
Queens Councilman Rory Lancman’s bill that would require the Department of Corrections to inform formerly incarcerated individuals of their voting rights received a City Hall hearing on Wednesday.
The bill would apply to individuals released from DOC custody. Lancman cited a correlation between voting and lower rates of reoffending as a driving factor.
The New York City Council Committees on Governmental Operations and Criminal Justice conducted the Oct. 3 hearing on legislation that would mandate the DOC to notify formerly incarcerated persons of when they may become eligible to vote. The bill also stipulates that the DOC must offer every individual a voter registration form.
“We know from efforts around the country that the opportunity to vote and have a voice in government actually decreases recidivism for former offenders because of the greater investment they feel in their communities and the laws that govern them,” said Lancman. “But having the right and knowing how to use it are two different things. My bill will bring those poles closer together and as a consequence make our city more democratic, more engaged and even more safe.”
The legislation is a part of a larger movement by the city and the Legal Aid Society to help voter-eligible detainees on Rikers Island register to vote, as there are an estimated 6,000 individuals on Rikers Island eligible to vote.
Members of the Legal Aid Society and The Fortune Society have expressed their support for the legislation, saying that individuals on Rikers Island deserve to voice their opinion, and that voting can help connect said individuals to society.
Lancman, who recently announced his bid for Queens District Attorney, originally proposed the bill in November 2016. The bill was reintroduced earlier this year.