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Wills’ bill seeks to protect jailed voters’ ballots

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Although jail detainees are kept behind bars, City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) says their votes should not be.

Wills introduced a bill at last week’s Council meeting outlining a process for the city Department of Correction to administer absentee ballot applications ahead of elections, distribute them to eligible voters and then return their ballots to the city Board of Elections.

In New York, inmates convicted of misdemeanors and those awaiting judicial rulings on felony charges are eligible to vote. Close to 81 percent of those in the state prison system are detainees who have been charged but not convicted of crimes, and are therefore eligible to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice policy institute, at New York University’s School of Law.

“I encounter more constituents than I would like ... that if they were in Rikers or another jail, they didn’t know they could vote. I have had people come up to me and tell me their voter record is messed up and they were never locked up or they had a misdemeanor conviction,” Wills said.

Neither the BOE nor DOC responded to requests for comment on the bill and how voting currently works in city jails.

Wills described the legislation, which is co-sponsored by Council members Inez Barron (D-Brooklyn) and Rosie Mendez (D-Manhattan), as the first in a series of criminal justice and voter enfranchisement bills.

Wills is drafting a bill that would have federal investigators step in when police or public prosecutors are accused of misconduct.

And Wills intends to introduce a resolution calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to reinstate voting rights for non-violent felons as soon as they leave prison rather than after completing parole.

“If we say OK you need to be monitored, but you’ve paid your debt as far as the judicial system is concerned, than I believe you should be allowed to vote,” he said. “This disproportionately affects minority communities.”

Indeed, the New York Civil Liberties Union, a civil rights advocacy group, found that one out of 24 black voters in New York were disenfranchised compared to one in 121 of all voters across the state.

Kamau Butcher, policy director for the Bronx Defenders legal group that registers voters in Rikers Island, said Wills’ bill would establish a timeline for distributing applications and ballots and then submitting them to the BOE.

This would provide detainees with assurance their votes would reach the BOE by deadline, according to Butcher.

In an unrelated development, Wills’ legal team announced plans to request that a special prosecutor handle the case state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman brought against the councilman for allegedly stealing some $30,000 in government funds.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

Updated 9:04 am, August 28, 2014
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Reader feedback

Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
What Wills, afraid you eventually will not be able to vote, when you go to jail for stealing funds.

I will say there is no reason why those who have spent time in prison cannot vote, it makes no damn sense, although a council member will not be able to do anything about this, so why not focus on something you can do. Your district is one of the filthiest in Queens, so why not take action as a council member to handle that, which to this day he has not, in fact none of Jamaica's leaders have done anything regarding one of the worst quality of life issues in Jamaica.

I don't understand this man, he waste more times on other things except focusing on his horrible district. Take car of your district first, then focus on other pet projects.

http://cleanupjamaicaqueens.wordpress.com/
Aug. 28, 2014, 10:52 am
lyndsey from jamaica says:
Mr. Moretti, i read your blog and the biggest piece of trash in this area is your filthy racist disposition. All you do is insult black elected officials and ASSUME you have information correct and you spew hate. If you were half as resourceful and knowledgeable as you claim, you'd properly direct you venom to the Mayor's office and department of sanitation which is were it belongs.
Aug. 29, 2014, 4:33 am
Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
lyndsey from jamaica says:
Mr. Moretti, i read your blog and the biggest piece of trash in this area is your filthy racist disposition. All you do is insult black elected officials and ASSUME you have information correct and you spew hate. If you were half as resourceful and knowledgeable as you claim, you'd properly direct you venom to the Mayor's office and department of sanitation which is were it belongs.
------------------------

Ah, I see, if I attack an elected leader for NOT doing this or her job and they happen to be black, I am considered a racist. Is that how it works for you?

The proper place to make complaints in your community is the first line of defense, the elected leaders, but I also make those complaints with the appropriate agencies as well. A local complaint does not fall under the Mayor's office (even though I send complaints there as well), that is what local elected officials and community boards are for and if they are not doing their job as is obvious in Jamaica, well, then you have crap, which my blog shows all time.

Maybe you are the one that needs to be knowledgeable in the matter of hierarchy of how the system works.

I guess you are content that Jamaica looks like crap. Now continue doing work for Wills and supporting his wonderful efforts.

http://cleanupjamaicaqueens.wordpress.com/
Aug. 29, 2014, 8:44 am
lyndsey from jamaica says:
Mr. MORETTI ,

First, you should be complaining to YOUR elected official. YOU don't even live in the district.
Secondly, your attacks of these people are of a personal nature like they have kicked your dog. If you were really in tune with reality, there is only so much a council member or any other local elected official can do with a MAYORAL agency. Agency head work for the MAYOR not the city council, state assembly or senate. The agency budgets and orders are given by the MAYOR. Community boards and council members work with the agencies but have no power over them. Check your facts.
Aug. 29, 2014, 11:25 am
Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
Community Boards and Council member might not have power over city agencies, but they certainly can speak with them on certain issues and have some influence, plus council members do have power to change existing laws and the amounts of fines, so please do not make them out to be completely powerless. Sure they cannot do everything, but doing little about some issues is just that, doing little. A great elected leader can do much for a community as opposed to a mediocre one.

My attacks on local leaders are not personal attacks, they are attacks on their ability, what they have or have not done, and in Wills case, he is actually up on charges of corruption with the misuse of $30,000. But I guess in your book that is fine. Yes, he has not been found guilty, but the fact that you are being investigated says much.

Southeast Queens has been a major hotbed of political corruption, just in the pass year. You do not see an issue with that or is it all a conspiracy like Senator Smith (another corrupt one) stated recently.

As much as I do not care for Leroy Comrie as Council Member, he never once in all his time, was investigated for corruption.

So according to you council members have little power to do anything. So why even have them, seems to be a waste of tax payers money. But the fact is a really good elected official, even a council member can make a difference in a community.

And I will say it again, Will's district is one of the worse when it comes to so many different issues. Can he solve all of them, no, but at least make attempts, which so far that does not seem to be the case, especially when you are spending time being arrested, preparing your case, etc and getting completely off track on the job as public servant.

But if they cannot really do much, why have our tax dollars wasted on such positions and that goes for assembly members and another waste, Vivian Cook.
Aug. 29, 2014, 11:46 am

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