BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Thursday, sex offender parolees in New York will be allowed to vote at school polling places but only between 7 and 9 pm.
"I question whether they should even be voting to begin with so if they have to jam it in in two hours, then I guess that's what has to happen," said state Senator Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda.
Ortt has been a vocal critic of the governor's conditional pardons to more than 24,000 parolees in total, granting them the right to vote. He's skeptical a Department of Corrections and Community Service special provision can even be enforced.
"You're asking folks who have a high level of recidivism, who have broken the law, you're asking them to be law-abiding when they're coming to vote. That's a big if," Ortt said.
DOCCS said although the provision has come to light recently, internal staff has known about it for several months.
Even without it, the state said a law requiring parole officers and school districts to specifically approve sex offenders taking part in activities on school grounds has been on the books for nearly two decades.
"The folks who are talking about this in such an inflammatory way really are forgetting that people who are on parole want nothing more in the world than not to violate their parole terms," said Erika Lorshbough, NYCLU Legislative Counsel.
The NYCLU said ultimately voting should be easier for everybody in the state, but the rules for sex offenders next week will have to do for now.
"It's as much of a compromise as anyone has thought to make to make sure that public safety needs are met while people are still allowed to exercise their right to vote," Lorschbough said.
Ortt remained skeptical though and said if there are any issues, it will fall squarely on the governor's shoulders. It's something he wants to revisit next session.