From the Morning Memo:

State Senate Republicans yesterday held the first of two consecutive joint hearings by the Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections and the Committee on Elections regarding the state Parole Board and the restoration of parolees’ voting rights by the governor.

Among other things, the GOP says it’s reviewing an executive order issued by the governor this past spring that granted voting rights to over 24,000 parolees, making them eligible to participate in this year’s election cycle.

The Republicans claim the decision was political, and yet another effort by the governor to circumvent the Legislature and curry favor with the left.

Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Chair Pat Gallivan, a former Parole Board member and WNY Republican, said the hearings were called to examine the executive order, the process put in place to facilitate it, and address the concerns surrounding that process.

“The purpose of today is not to have a debate on whether or not certain individuals should have voting rights or not – that was not purpose of the hearing,” said Gallivan. “It is my contention, and I feel strongly about this, that the governor usurped the power of the Legislature, that the constitution was not intended to deal in a blanket fashion with tens of thousands of individuals. It was rather intended for individual injustice.”

Witnesses were invited to testify, and the list of appearances included former Parole Board member James Ferguson and law enforcement representatives such as Patrick Lynch, president of the NYC Police Benevolent Association.

Voting rights advocates say it was the Senate Republicans who were politically motivated in this instance, seeking to generate controversy among members of the conservative grassroots as they fight to main control of the majority in the November elections.

“We believe the state Parole Board is taking steps in the right direction by releasing more people, but they need to release more people,” says David George, a Community Organizer for the Release Aging People in Prison Campaign.

“We believe, really that these hearings are political purposes, and that the state Senate Republicans and their leadership are using these hearings to inspire a sense of fear that’s based in racism in their voters in battleground state Senate districts.”

Several Cuomo administration officials submitted written testimony in lieu of appearance, including the governor’s top attorney, Alphonso David. Cuomo spokesman Tyrone Stevens said:

“Let’s be very clear: These hearings are nothing more than an election-year stunt by the Senate Republicans, and we’re not going to be their props.”

“As we’ve previously said, the Parole Board has made decisions that we’ve disagreed with, but as the Senate Republicans know full well, this is an independent board, every member of which the Republican Senate have confirmed.”

“If they really wanted to protect New Yorkers, they should dispense with the fear mongering and pass the Child Victims Act.”

Democratic Sen. Gustavo Rivera, of the Bronc, expressed a similar concern. He and his fellow Democrats all boycotted the hearing, and won’t be attending a second event that is planned for today on Long Island.

“While there may be legitimate concerns around our State’s current parole policies and the restoration of voting rights for New Yorkers on parole, the fact is that my Republican colleagues are rushing these hearings a mere four weeks before November’s general election in their attempt to score cheap political points and mobilize their base of voters,” River said in a statement.

“Furthermore, we cannot deny that one of the main goals of these hearings is to deepen the public’s distrust against incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals, even after they have paid their debt to society, and have been rehabilitated.”

Gallivan said all majority and minority members received individual notices directly to their offices regarding the hearings, and he had had correspondences “with at least two other offices.”

Gallivan was joined by several fellow Republicans, including: Sen. Fred Akshar, Chair of the Committee on Elections, Sen. Sue Serino, Sen. Joe Griffo, Sen. Jim Tedisco and Sen. Thomas O’Mara.

At the hearings’ conclusion, following an examination of testimonies and records gathered, a written record will be issued alongside recommendations, Gallivan said.