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Photo by Michael Shain
Councilman Ruben Wills sponsored legislation to improve jailed individuals’ access to voting information and ballots.
By Patrick Donachie

The Department of Corrections will promote absentee voting for jailed individuals, many of whom are not aware of their eligibility to vote. The increased attention will come due to legislation signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and sponsored by Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica).

The bill will provide assistance for individuals who are incarcerated prior to trial, as well as those serving misdemeanor sentences. Individuals in jail who have not yet been convicted of a crime, as well as convicted individuals who have completed their incarceration and parole are eligible to vote, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union. Wills praised the Nov. 16 signing of the legislation.

“Although Introduction 464-A does not represent a cure-all for the disenfranchisement of the incarcerated, it is a significant step towards achieving greater equality for those who are too poor to arrange bail and cast their ballot at their actual poll site,” Wills said. “We must continue to work towards ending the disenfranchisement of the nearly 100,000 individuals in New York state who have a felony conviction.”

The legislation requires the DOC to provide detainees with absentee ballot applications and to forward them to the New York City Board of Elections no later than two weeks before an election. It will go into effect 90 days after its signing.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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