New York Gov. Cuomo signs bill that automatically restores felons' right to vote after release

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill expanding felon voting rights on May 4, according to the state legislature, allowing for people on parole in the state to be eligible to vote as soon as they leave prison. By Taylor Romine and Chandelis Duster, CNN

(CNN) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill expanding felon voting rights on Tuesday, according to the state legislature, allowing for people on parole in the state to be eligible to vote as soon as they leave prison.

The law codifies a 2018 executive order that allowed for Cuomo to individually pardon parolees. According to the bill text, Department of Corrections officials are required to provide a voter registration form as the felon is leaving the facility. Previously, parolees would have to wait a period of four to six weeks to receive a pardon and then must register to vote on their own.

The law goes into effect immediately, although some portions are delayed until 120 days after its signing, according to the bill text. The New York legislature passed the bill in April.

CNN reached out to Cuomo's office for comment Wednesday.

The voting rights law comes as other Democrat-led states move to expand voting access, a stark contrast to Republicans in state legislatures pushing measures to restrict voting. Last month, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, signed legislation that will automatically restore the voting rights of more than 20,000 people convicted of a felony once they're released from prison. And Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, took executive action in March restoring voting and other civil rights to more than 69,000 former felons as soon as they complete their prison terms.

Democrats in the legislature praised Cuomo's signage of the measure, including Assembly Member Daniel O'Donnell who co-sponsored the legislation and said it "removes one more barrier to equal representation" in the state.

"For too long, restricting the right to vote has been used as a tool to silence and exclude communities of color," O'Donnell said in a statement released Wednesday.

Voting rights advocates also lauded the legislation. Sean Morales-Doyle, deputy director of the Voting Rights and Elections Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, praised the law and said it makes clear that Americans of color "have a say in the elections that impact them and their families."

"People on parole live and work in our cities and towns, and by automatically restoring their right to vote, New York is finally welcoming them as full participants in society. That's a crucial change, one that will ameliorate one of the vestiges of Jim Crow," Morales-Doyle said in a statement released Wednesday. "Due to the racial disparities in New York's criminal justice system, nearly three-quarters of those disenfranchised by the ban on voting for people on parole were Black or Latino."

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