ALBANY — Cop killer Herman Bell is among the more than 24,000 parolees granted conditional pardons by Gov. Cuomo so they can vote.
While the governor’s office in an announcement Tuesday did not provide a list of names of those included on the list, a state corrections website shows Bell was issued a voting pardon.
Bell, a former Black Liberation Army member who served about 40 years for the killing of two cops, was recently released from prison after the controversial decision by a Parole Board to set him free. The decision was blasted by law enforcement and Republican lawmakers.
Cuomo has said he disagreed with the decision to grant Bell parole, but Tuesday’s announcement set off a new wave of outrage.
“Herman Bell is a killer. The governor and his parole board allowed a three-time murderer to go free. The truth is Herman Bell should have been killed by the police when he was apprehended years ago and we would not be discussing him now,” said Ed Mullins, president of the sergeants’ union.
The Cuomo administration has said the executive order the governor signed in April covers anyone who is out on parole and in good standing, and that anyone who meets the criteria is automatically processed.
Cuomo when announcing his executive order said that New York was following 14 other states and the District of Columbia in restoring voting rights to people upon their release from prison. Two other states never take them away.
There are about 35,000 New Yorkers on parole who could not vote, the governor’s office said at the time the executive order was signed.
Cuomo announced Tuesday that he issued the first set of conditional pardons restoring the right to vote to 24,086 people on parole.
“The right to vote is fundamental and it is unconscionable to deny that basic right of citizenship to New Yorkers who have paid their debt to society,” he said. “Restoring a voice to men and women reentering their communities will strengthen our democracy, as well as the reentry process, which in-turn will help reduce recidivism.”
Cuomo’s office in a release said that the pardon review process examines each person and considers a variety of factors, including if the person is living successfully in the community by maintaining required contact with his or her parole officer and remaining at liberty at the time of the review.
The office said the remaining applications are under review and being processed.
The pardon will be revoked if a recipient commits a parole violation and is sent back to prison or is convicted of a new felony.
Tuesday’s announcement was praised by New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and other advocates.
“These pardons will encourage civic participation, make our political process more inclusive, and affirm the fundamental rights of all New Yorkers,” Lieberman said. “Voting is the right we exercise to protect all others, and this progressive action will strengthen New York’s democracy. The work now falls to communities across the state to ensure parolees are registered, engaged and heard.”
Others said the move was politically motivated, with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) noting the announcement came on the eve of the state Democratic Party convention.
He said the move “is just the latest in a series of politically motivated decisions designed to attract more votes from the far-left fringes of his party.”
“Once again, the Governor has put politics ahead of the public interest,” Flanagan added.
Roy Richter, head of the police captains’ union, said giving parolees the ability to vote “gives new meaning to having a captive audience when campaigning.”