The NY Post has an interesting piece today about Ruben Wills, a NY City Councilman who is pushing legislation in the City Council to require the city Department of Corrections to “publicize the right of prisoners — awaiting trial or convicted of misdemeanors — to vote.” This is, at best, a questionable use of limited government resources. More interestingly, the Councilman is under indictment for “allegedly swiping government funds from a nonprofit that he once ran”
There is obvious absurdity and irony in an indicted Councilman pushing legislation to help imprisoned likely criminals to vote. Certainly, those incarcerated, non-convicted prisoners should be able to vote if they are otherwise qualified to vote. We do believe in innocent until proven guilty in the United States. However, we really have to ask if it is appropriate for an indicted Councilman to push this legislation, and secondly, if this is really the best use of taxpayer resources? We know New York City has serious deep-seeded and systematic problems with its elections so it’s perplexing why a City Council member would be focusing on superfluous priorities such as pushing voting for city prisoners.
NYC’s longstanding election administration problems were uncovered in a recent investigation and subsequent audit report from the New York Department of Investigations (DOI). During the course of its audit, the DOI identified a number of individuals who should have been removed from the city’s voter rolls, including ineligible felons, but were not. DOI investigators then appeared at NYC polling places to vote in the name of the ineligible voters. Undercover agents were cleared by poll workers to vote for the ineligible voters 97% of the time. DOI investigators were able to vote for 14 out of the 15 felons they impersonated at the polls. DOI would have had complete success if it weren’t for one amazing coincidence recounted in the audit report:
In the one instance where an investigator failed to vote as a felon listed in the registration book, the investigator was unable to vote because the poll inspector at the election district 18 table stated that she was the mother of the felon voter for whom the investigator was attempting to vote.
The DOI’s audit report was nothing short of an indictment on New York City’s electoral system. You think the Councilman whose body is responsible for oversight of the city’s Board of Elections would be focusing his attention on holding the BOE accountable for fixing the dozens of problems identified in the report, including the charges of nepotism, inadequate training, and vulnerabilities to fraud. Instead, he is pushing for voting rights for prisoners, a position he may very well find himself if incarcerated for his alleged crime.