Our December general meeting will be Wednesday, December 11th at YWCA Brooklyn (30 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY), from 7 – 9 p.m. At our meeting, we will hear from Soffiyah Elijah, the Executive Director for the Alliance of Families for Justice (“AFJ”), who wrote a wonderful article in USA Today concerning the need to expand voting rights for people who are incarcerated. As we continue to advocate for #restorethevote and against felony disenfranchisement, we thought our December meeting would be a wonderful opportunity to follow up on our panel discussion from this spring and to continue the discussion as we prepare for the legislation session. In addition to hearing from Soffiyah, our meeting will also focus on our legislative priorities for 2020. All are welcome!

The Alliance of Families for Justice (“AFJ”), an organization that seeks to end mass incarceration by empowering their families. In support of its mission, AFJ provides re-entry support services, legal support, and advocacy and communication skills training. AFJ also seeks to restore full voting rights to people who have been previously incarcerated. Located in Harlem, New York, Soffiyah created the organization in 2016. Prior to her work with the Alliance of Families for Justice, Soffiyah was a criminal defense attorney and advocate for civil rights, and served as the Executive Director of the Correctional Association of New York. 


Those of us who attended BVA’s #restorethevote forum and/or have researched this topic know and understand that New York’s voting laws are steeped in racism. And to uphold these laws, more than a century later, without any reflection on why they were passed and if they are still needed does a disservice to all New Yorkers. Nowhere in our constitution does it state that a person loses their citizenship when convicted of a felony. Instead, the restrictions to felony enfranchisement are by operation of political calculations that we have the duty, and the right, to question. 

While we at BVA are advocating for universal voting, where losing the right to vote becomes the exception (like in instances of election fraud) rather than the rule. We understand that not everyone is ready for such transformational change (six million people across the nation have lost their right to vote) and that opinions will not change in a day. Therefore, if you are not supportive of universal voting, we challenge you to first, engage with your individual understanding of this issue and formulate your reasons for non-support, and second, to share your opinions and work with us as we explore our advocacy in this area. We want to hear all voices as we work towards our goal of establishing a more just democracy. Want to learn more? 

View or Download our one-sheet on felony disenfranchisement.

Check out The Sentencing Project. HERE

The New York Times op-ed “Tell Me Again Why Prisoners Can’t Vote.” HERE

2016 article from The Atlantic: Polls for Prisons. HERE

Whether you support universal voting or you are not ready, BVA has 2 goals regarding felony disenfranchisement:

  1. To gather information on whether your representative supports codifying Governor Cuomo’s executive order granting a conditional pardon to people on parole, thereby restoring their right to vote and/or universal voting and 
  2. To demand that the state legislature pass legislation codifying Governor Cuomo’s executive order 

Please also email if you receive an answer to these questions of wish to learn more or discussion felony restoration.