Non-citizens likely to gain voting rights in New York City

The City Council is moving to pass a bill in December to give the vote to 800,000 New Yorkers who are not US citizens.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

New York City officials are making a play to give non-citizens the right to vote in local elections. The City Council is moving to pass a bill in December to give the vote to 800,000 New Yorkers who are not citizens.

This would allow non-citizens to register in political parties and vote in local elections if they hold green cards or have working visas. The only additional requirement for non-citizens is that they have been residents of New York City for a mere 30 days.

City Council expects to pass this bill, according to the New York Times, by a "veto-proof margin," meaning that it will pass against progressive Mayor Bill de Blasio's objections. That vote is anticipated on December 9.

Immigrant activists say that people who pay taxes should be able to vote. However, those who oppose the bill have concerns about broadening the voting pool in local elections to people who are not permitted to vote in state or federal elections, citing that there are certain rights that come with citizenship, and voting is one of them.

De Blasio said that he had no intention of vetoing the bill once it reaches his desk for signature, but did state that it would undermine the "value of citizenship." Additionally, he doesn't think City Council has the authority to make changes to who can and cannot vote, as that power resides with the State Legislature alone.

Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli is an unlikely ally to de Blasio in the opposition of expanding voting rights to non-citizens, saying as well that this bill would "weaken" the votes of the citizenry of New York.

"Someone who has lived here for 30 days will have a say in how we raise our taxes, our debt and long-term pension liabilities," Borelli said. "These are things people who are temporary residents should not have a say in."

The bill's supporters advocated for its passage at a rally outside City Hall on Tuesday, chanting former President Obama's campaign slogan, lifted from Cesar Chavez, "si, se puede," "yes we can."

The primary sponsor of the bill, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, wants to use it to send a message to the rest of the country. "It’s important for the Democratic Party to look at New York City and see that when voting rights are being attacked, we are expanding voter participation," Rodriguez said, who represents Washington Heights in upper Manhattan.

Of those 800,000 plus immigrants who would get the vote if and when this bill passes the heavily Democratic City Council, "about 130,000 are from the Dominican Republic; another 117,500 are from China, according to the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs," per the Times.

Incoming Mayor Eric Adams is in favor of the bill, and said outright that green card holders should have the right to vote in local elections. He did, however, raise some concerns about the legality of the action. Adams plans to "review the city law department's analysis of the bill" once he takes the reins from de Blasio in January.

If passed, as it looks like it will be, the responsibility to make sure voters get the right ballots will fall on New York City poll workers. Non-citizens would be given different ballots from citizens, and it would be up to poll workers to make sure that those are not mixed up. When a new "ranked-choice" voting system was rolled out in June, poll workers were not able to make the adjustment, and that roll-out was roundly reported as a disaster.


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