New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Wednesday that he will issue an executive order making felons on parole eligible to vote. The decision could extend voting rights to over 35,000 people.
The New York Times reports that Cuomo made the announcement at the National Action Network's annual convention in New York City, where he said that he had "proposed legislation allowing parolees to vote, but that it had been rejected by the State Senate."
Cuomo's initiative would lead New York to join 18 other states and Washington, D.C., to allow parolees to vote, according to the governor's office.
Parole voting restrictions have a disproportionate impact on New Yorkers of color, with African Americans and Hispanic people comprising 71 percent of parolees in New York.
"This reform will reduce disenfranchisement and will help restore justice and fairness to our democratic process. Withholding or delaying voting rights diminishes our democracy," Cuomo said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Civil rights advocates celebrated Cuomo's decision as long overdue; however, Republicans called the order a "gross overreach of executive authority," the New York Times reports. Ed Cox, the chairman of the state Republican Party, said in a statement that Cuomo's order is an "outrageous power grab."
Cuomo has established himself as a governor who pushes the limits on criminal justice reform—this year, he proposed ending cash bail for low-level offenses and has also pushed for other voting reform, the New York Times reports. Neither measure was taken up by the legislature or enacted via executive order.