New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo used his executive power to give voting rights to tens of thousands of felons across the state.
The measure stalled in the state Senate, where it was met with resistance by Republican lawmakers. In comments at the National Action Network’s annual convention this week, the Democratic governor made it clear that he was “unwilling to take no for an answer.”
He announced at the New York City event that he would “make it law by executive order,” a promise he kept Wednesday when he bypassed legislators to sign the bill directly into effect.
“It is unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have paid the debt and have re-entered society,” the governor wrote in a statement announcing the executive order.
With a stroke of his pen, New York joined more than a dozen other states and the District of Columbia in allowing voting privileges to convicted felons.
Plenty of Republicans in New York and beyond, however, are upset not only with the bill’s contents but the manner in which it was passed.
New York State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox spoke out against what he called an “outrageous power grab” by the governor.
He claimed the move was an attempt to appeal to “radical primary voters” as Cuomo braces for a showdown against actress Cynthia Nixon. The “Sex and the City” star has staked out a position to the left of the incumbent governor on many issues.
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In a speech last month, she called Cuomo a “wannabe Republican.”
Another prominent New York Republican also used “radical” to describe one aspect of the executive order.
“I’m, like, in awe,” said state Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan. “I’m dumbfounded.”
He called the unilateral move a “radical departure from the way legislation should be enacted.”
Cuomo noted a racial component to the bill, seen by some as a response to criticism from Nixon and others that he has not done enough to help minorities.
He explained that restoring voting rights to a group comprised largely of blacks and Latinos will assist them in becoming more involved in their communities.
Nevertheless, critics including Flanagan say his end run around the Senate could render the executive order illegal.
While many Democrats supported the move, Nixon issued a statement describing Cuomo’s action as insufficient.
“For eight years, Cuomo governed like a Republican — handing control of our state to his ultrarich donors and the party of Trump,” she wrote. “Now he’s scared of communities all across New York who want to replace him with a real Democrat.”
She went on to describe policies restricting the rights of convicted felons as “voter suppression,” insisting that in New York it “should have ended eight years ago.”
Alphonso David, the governor’s counsel, addressed criticism from the left and right.
“We’ve been killing ourselves for the past decade to advance the ball forward on criminal justice and voting rights issues,” he said. “And no one should suggest that because we’re in an election season, we’re doing this because of that.”
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