Things That Matter

New York City Is About to Allow Non-Citizens To Vote In Local Elections

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While much of the country is restricting voting rights as much as possible, New York City is taking a different approach. This week, the Big Apple is poised to ratify a proposal that will give non-citizens the right to vote in local elections. 

The measure will give 800,000 New Yorkers the right to cast their vote in elections for future mayors, city council members and other local officials.

The proposal will give lawful New York City non-citizen residents the right to vote, as well as Dreamers (undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. at a young age). Residents will have to have lived in New York City for at least 30 days. 

Non-citizens still would not be allowed to vote in federal elections or state elections that decide offices like the governor and state legislature. 

Supporters of the bill are saying that the measure will give much-needed input from immigrants, who make up one in nine of the city’s seven million residents of voting age. 

According to New York City’s office of Immigrant Affairs, 130,000 of the 808,000 lawful permanent residents of New York are from the Dominican Republic. Another 117,500 are from China.

“Immigrant New Yorkers raise their children in our schools, shop and own local businesses, drive on our streets, and serve as essential workers. They deserve to have a voice in local elections,” tweeted NYC Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who is a sponsor of the bill.

While the proposal has broad support among city council members and New Yorkers at large, Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed hesitancy about the legality of the measure. 

“Look, there’s obviously an argument — we want people involved, we want to hear people’s voices. But I still… I still have a concern about it,” De Blasio recently said to Inside City Hall. “Citizenship has an extraordinary value. People work so hard for it. We don’t want people to feel like, hey, it’s not worth going to become a citizen. We need people in every good way to want to be citizens.”

However, Mayor de Blasio said he would not veto the bill.

And Mayor de Blasio isn’t the only one who has reservations. NYC republicans have also echoed de Blasio’s concerns about the bill “devaluing” citizenship. 

“It devalues citizenship, and citizenship is the standard by which the state constitution issues or allows for suffrage in New York state elections at all levels,” said City Council Minority Leader Joseph Borelli, according to the AP.

But the voice of the detractors doesn’t seem to stop the momentum of the bill. Immigrants and allies see this as a crucial step towards both acknowledging immigrants for their contribution to the United States as well as a symbolic stand against the conservative push to restrict voting rights — a push largely targeted at POC.

“Most of us came to this country looking for a better future for our families,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz while testifying in support of the bill. “We pay taxes. We send our children to our schools. We open up businesses. We ride mass transit and use our hospitals, just like you and I. But unlike you and I, they don’t get to choose who represents them and their values.”

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