State Sen. Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown) was joined by local police and school officials Wednesday afternoon blasting Gov. Andrew Cuomo for signing an executive order that allows convicted sex offenders to vote at school polling places.
Cuomo signed an executive order in April that would provide conditional pardons to more than 25,000 felons who have completed their jail sentence but remain on parole. Prior to Cuomo’s order, those who had been convicted of a felony and served time in prison were restricted from voting until they completed their sentence and parole.
The pardon restores the parolees’ ability to vote in primary and general elections only after 7 p.m.
But what rankled local police and school officials was learning that the polling place for a Level 3 sex offender, who was convicted in 1987 for raping and sodomizing a five-year-old girl, is Hawthorne Elementary School.
“These dangerous sex offenders who are serving their time on parole can now enter elementary schools to vote,” Murphy said at a press conference at the Mount Pleasant Police Department. “Where is that fair? This is outrageous.”
There are more than 450 Level 2 and 3 sex offenders living in Westchester, according to the county’s sex offender registry.
Murphy and other officials shared their disgust, adding that Cuomo signed the executive order without feedback from elected officials, law enforcement, the Board of Elections and school districts and none were notified before the executive order was issued.
Mount Pleasant Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said officials never received notification of the executive order. He learned about the law after reading a newspaper article last week.
“If there was communication, he (Cuomo) would have known it’s Back to School night at Hawthorne Elementary (Thursday night),” Murphy said. “If we communicated, I don’t think we would be standing here today. This is a massive problem. It isn’t fair.”
Mount Pleasant Police Chief Paul Oliva said a police officer would be assigned to each polling station during Thursday’s primary election. He said he wasn’t aware of the executive order until Murphy brought it to his attention, asserting that his department would ensure the safety of children and voters.
Chappaqua Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christine Ackerman announced during Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting that there is additional securing at school polling stations on Thursday. She said local school superintendents are advocating for polling stations to be removed from school property to guard against safety issues.
At the press conference, Westchester County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Douglas Colte said commissioners throughout the state have proposed legislation requesting all schools be closed on Election Day. While Colte said he believes Cuomo is more concerned with protecting criminals than children, he is optimistic the legislation will pass.
Under the current law, registered sex offenders are allowed on school grounds and government offices with written permission from their parole officer and the school superintendent. They can only enter school grounds after 7 p.m. on when polls are open and must leave the school once they finish voting.
“To my knowledge, and I have checked with other superintendents, no one has sought permission from a superintendent to vote,” said Lakeland Superintendent Dr. George Stone. “These are folks that have already demonstrated that they don’t follow the rules, so I would certainly not be looking for a large number of requests coming in the next few hours before the vote will take place.”