Noncitizens Will Soon Be Able to Vote in NYC

Bill that would let legal residents vote in local elections passes city council
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2021 4:30 PM CST
Updated Dec 10, 2021 12:01 AM CST
New York Set to Expand Voting Rights to Noncitizens
Voters mark their ballots at Frank McCourt High School, in New York, Tuesday, June 22, 2021.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

(Newser) Update: The New York City Council on Thursday night approved a measure that would give noncitizens the right to vote in local elections, assuming Mayor Bill de Blasio does not try to veto it—which he has pledged not to do, though he says he has concerns about the legislation. His term ends this month, and incoming mayor Eric Adams has said he supports the bill. Even if de Blasio changes his mind and vetoes it, there is enough support to override that veto; if he does not act on the legislation at all, it becomes law by default, NBC New York reports. The bill calls for the Board of Elections to come up with an implementation plan by July, and for noncitizens to be allowed to vote starting in 2023. Our original story from Nov. 23 follows:

Lawmakers in New York City say that with voting restrictions being tightened in much of the country, they want the city to go the other way. A bill that would allow an estimated 808,000 noncitizens to vote in municipal elections and on local ballot initiatives is expected to pass City Council with a veto-proof majority on Dec. 9, the New York Times reports. The "Our City, Our Vote" bill applies to green card holders and other noncitizens with the legal right to work in the US who have been NYC residents for at least six months.

Allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections was once unremarkable but most provisions were repealed early last century, the Times notes. Several cities in Maryland and Vermont currently allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, and San Francisco allows noncitizens to vote in school board elections. City officials say the noncitizen New Yorkers who could gain the right to vote include around 130,000 adults from the Dominican Republic and more than 117,000 from China. Supporters say the move will give a voice to hundreds of thousands of taxpayers who use city services—and it could inspire noncitizens to apply for citizenship so they can vote in federal and state election as well.

The measure has the support of Mayor-elect Eric Adams, though Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose term expires Dec. 31, has said he has "mixed feelings," Newsweek reports. De Blasio has said the measure could run afoul of state law, though City Council legal staff say there is no federal or state law that blocks the city from allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections. (Read more New York City stories.)

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