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Cuomo Announces Order To Allow People On Parole To Vote

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's office
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Rev. Al Sharpton

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo gave a speech at the annual meeting of the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Wednesday, honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where he offered remedies to fix the nation’s Democratic Party.

Cuomo railed against President Donald Trump and his administration, saying they are “anti-American” and opposed to everything Dr. King preached about. But he said the Democratic Party got it wrong in 2016.

Without mentioning the names of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who Cuomo’s been close to, the governor said the party “got disconnected” from the middle-class. He said working people were desperate and believed Trump’s promises that they would get mills and factories back in the United States.

“There’s no economy that goes backward; it was a fantasy,” Cuomo said. 

He said the Democratic Party also “under-delivered for our minority supporters.” Cuomo criticized inequalities in education in New York and he announced that he’s signing an executive order to allow people on parole to vote.

"You did your time," Cuomo said. "You paid your debt. You're released, but you still don't have a right to vote. At the same time, we're saying 'We want you part of society. We want you to get back into the community.'" 

The governor blamed the Republican-led state Senate for rejecting a bill he proposed to make the change.

“I’m unwilling to take 'no' for an answer,” Cuomo said to cheers. “I’m going to make it law by executive order.”

A spokesman for the governor later clarified that the measure was not actually in the governor’s 2018 budget proposal, but it did come up during budget discussions with the legislature and was rejected by the GOP-led Senate.

Cuomo’s opponents jumped on the executive order. His Democratic primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, called it a “song and dance routine,” saying Cuomo enabled the Republicans, who blocked the bill, to keep control of the Senate for eight years.   

“Voter suppression in New York should have ended eight years ago”, Nixon said in a statement.

Dutchess County Executive and Republican candidate for governor, Marc Molinaro released the following statement Wednesday afternoon.

"Whether it's using his government office for campaign activities, directing an independent authority, the MTA, to pay for ski slopes or setting arbitrary wage scales on the private sector, Andrew Cuomo says, believes and acts as though he, and he alone, is the government - a dictator,” the statement reads. “Just months before an election, with the stroke of his pen, Andrew Cuomo, plans to restore the voting rights for cop killer Herman Bell and Palm Sunday killer Chris Thomas and calls it 'justice'. But if the dictator of third world nation threw open it's prison doors and granted voting rights to the criminals right before a reelection, we all would be appalled. While I unequivocally believe in second chances, I also believe in the rule of law. Governor Cuomo's decision to circumvent the legislative process and by executive fiat extend voting rights to over 36,000 parolees, who have yet to fulfill their debt to society is wrong.”

Meanwhile, GOP state chair Ed Cox called the order an “outrageous power grab”, and a purely political act “designed to appeal to radical primary voters and satisfy his presidential ambitions.”

Cuomo said he’s content to run for re-election for governor this year, and will not say whether he’s running for president in 2020. But he told the crowd that he believes New York is the most progressive state and can show the rest of the country how to do things.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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