NEW YORK (FOX5NY.COM) - Tens of thousands of parolees in New York soon will be able to vote in elections thanks to an executive order.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, on Wednesday signed the order restoring the voting rights of about 35,000 current parolees as well as inmates released into community supervision going forward.
The executive order cited several reasons, including studies showing that voting restrictions on parolees disproportionately affect residents of color; 71 percent of disenfranchised parolees are African American and Hispanic.
"It is unconscionable to deny voting rights to New Yorkers who have paid their debt and have re-entered society," Cuomo said in a written statement. "This reform will reduce disenfranchisement and will help restore justice and fairness to our democratic process. Withholding or delaying voting rights diminishes our democracy."
At a public event, Cuomo said that the Republican-controlled state Senate defeated his legislation that would have restored voting rights, so he decided to act unilaterally.
"I'm unwilling to take no for an answer," he said. "I'm going to make it law by executive order and I announce that here today."
The state's Republican Party slammed the governor's move.
"Let's call this what it is: an outrageous power grab," the state GOP tweeted. "Cuomo's actions are purely political, designed to appeal to radical primary voters and bolster his 2020 dream," referring to his supposed presidential ambitions.
But for now, Cuomo is seeking a third term as governor. He is facing a primary challenge from his left—the actress and activist Cynthia Nixon, who called the order a "new song-and-dance routine."
"For eight years, Cuomo governed like a Republican—handing control of our state to his ultra-rich donors and the party of Trump. Now he's scared of communities all across New York who want to replace him with a real Democrat," Nixon tweeted. "Voter suppression in New York should have ended eight years ago, from the rights of parolees to access to early voting and automatic registration."