Last week, the New York City Council passed an ordinance that will allow people who are legal residents of the city but not U.S. citizens to take part in local elections. It’s a measure being hailed as a sign of progress by many minority communities. But some New Yorkers have raised concerns about whether it’s legal or if some will push to further expand voting rights.
Last Thursday, the Council, in a 33-14 vote, approved Intro. 1867-A, which was sponsored by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, D-Manhattan. If signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio, the measure would take effect Dec. 9, 2022, and apply to any citywide election starting Jan. 9, 2023.
Under the proposal, anyone who has been a legal resident of New York City for 30 days would be eligible to vote in local elections, including those for mayor and city council races. That includes non-citizens who hold green cards as permanent residents and others who are allowed to work legally in the U.S.
“In one of the most diverse cities in the world, we need to ensure there is adequate representation for all New Yorkers,” said Rodriguez in the council chambers before Thursday’s vote.
It would not allow undocumented individuals to vote.
The measure would give local voting rights to more than 800,000 people living in the nation’s largest city. Less than 1.1 million residents voted in the city’s mayoral election last month.
Speaking at a press conference on the measure, Councilmember Francisco Moya, D-Queens, said it was especially personal for him.
“My mother will finally have a voice and an opportunity to vote for her son in an election… It is an empowering moment for all of us,” said Moya, whose family emigrated from Ecuador to the United States.
The nation’s largest city is not the first to take such action. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, San Francisco allows nonresidents to participate in elections for local or school board races. Voters in the Vermont towns of Montpelier and Winooski authorized changes to their city charters allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections, and nine Maryland communities have similar laws as well.
The top Republicans in the state Senate, Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt and Deputy Minority Leader Andrew Lanza, issued a statement condemning the Council’s action. They also believe a legal challenge would be successful but would rather see de Blasio veto the measure instead.
“Today’s vote is a slap in the face to every law-abiding American citizen who values their sacred right to participate in our democracy and is the latest attempt by New York Democrats to destroy the sanctity of our elections for their own political purposes,” said Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, and Lanza, R-Staten Island, in the joint statement. “It won’t be long until Albany Democrats advance non-citizen voting throughout our entire state.”
However, on Fox News Sunday, de Blasio told Chris Wallace he had “mixed feelings” about the measure but said he would not veto it in his final days in office.
“I think there are big legal questions, but I also respect the City Council,” said de Blasio. “They made a decision.”
This article was originally posted on New York City Council votes to give legal non-citizens the right to vote in local races