Can I Vote With a Criminal Record in NYC?

UPDATE: On April 18, 2018, Gov. Cuomo issued an executive order restoring voting rights to New Yorkers on parole. Please refer to the following flyer for updated information.

Voting in NYC for the Formerly Incarcerated

September 29, 2016
Katrina Shakarian, Public Relations Officer

There is a lot of misinformation circulating on the topic of voting with a criminal record in the United States. Much of the confusion stems from the fact that policies vary widely from state to state, from permanent disenfranchisement in some states to full voting rights for people with criminal records, even those currently incarcerated, in others.

New York State falls in the middle of this spectrum. New Yorkers cannot vote if they are incarcerated or on parole for a felony conviction. However, New York restores voting rights once the individual has completed his or her sentence and has been discharged from parole.

Once New Yorkers have completed their sentences and been discharged from parole, they must re-register to be eligible to vote. Voter registration forms in 16 different languages to print, complete and mail can be found at

The Legal Aid Society has prepared resources that provide clear answers to questions that go beyond those guidelines. They developed the palm card below detailing the “can’s” and “cannots” of voting in New York for anyone with a criminal record:

In July, Legal Aid’s Community Justice Unit visited all of the NYC Department of Corrections’ (DOC) adult facilities to register anyone eligible to vote and to disseminate information about voting rights.   

The team met inmates who were unsure of their voting rights and some who believed--incorrectly--that once they had a felony conviction, they would never be able to vote in New York again. Furthermore, the team encountered skepticism about accessing the electoral process and reluctance to disclose personal information on registration forms. Many detainees thought that their votes would be thrown away. 

The team found that even DOC staff were unaware of voting rights for New Yorkers with a criminal record.  Some of the most common questions they encountered were:

In New York, can I vote…

If I have a felony conviction in my past?

  • Yes. You can vote if you’ve been convicted of a felony in the past but have completed any sentence and any parole. 
If I’m waiting for trial?
  • Yes. You can vote if you are in jail awaiting trial on any charge. 

If I’m on parole?
  • No. You cannot vote if you are currently on parole for a felony conviction. 

If I’m on probation?
  • Yes. You can vote if you are currently on probation and have completed any sentence or parole. 

From jail? 
  • Yes. You can vote if you are in jail for a misdemeanor conviction or are in jail awaiting trial for any charge. 

How do I vote from jail?
  • Eligible detainees can vote from DOC facilities by absentee ballot. In addition to completing and mailing a standard registration form, they must complete and mail a second form requesting to be sent an absentee ballot.   See the “Vote Absentee” section of our “How to Vote” page.

In just a month’s time, the team registered 493 people to vote, which is roughly 5% of the adult population under the DOC’s purview. They also collected 324 absentee ballot applications.