An estimated 800,000 legal immigrants living in New York City will soon be allowed to vote in local elections thanks to a new law passed on Thursday.
City council members in the Big Apple voted 33 to 14 to approve the “Our City, Our Vote” bill, which grants local election voting rights to noncitizens, according to the New York Times. Two council members abstained from the vote.
NYC Mayor-elect Eric Adams has expressed support for the measure, but both he and outgoing NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio have questioned whether city lawmakers have the power to grant voting rights to noncitizens, the Times reported.
“Currently, almost one million New Yorkers are denied this foundational right,” the presiding Brooklyn borough president said in September in a written testimony submitted to city council.
“They work here, pay taxes here, support local businesses here, and yet, they have no say in the functioning of the local government under which they must live,” Adams said of legal immigrants in NYC. “No democracy should have constituents who have no pathway to effect the management of their representative government.”
De Blasio has said he won’t veto the “Our City, Our Vote,” bill, which will become law in 30 days, according to Politico, even if he doesn’t sign it.
“I really believe this has to be decided at the state level, according to state law,” de Blasio told The Brian Lehrer Show in September, according to Newsweek.
Legal immigrants residing in New York City can begin registering to vote about a year from now barring some form of intervention, according to the New York Times. That means noncitizen residents can start voting in local elections as soon as Jan. 9, 2023, the newspaper reported.
Opponents of noncitizen voting have argued the practice infringes on the voting rights of American citizens and creates a disincentive for immigrants to become naturalized citizens.
New York City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, a Democrat from Brooklyn who voted against the “Our City Our Vote” bill, questioned whether it would erode Black Americans’ voting power.
“This particular legislation is going to shift the power dynamics in New York City in a major way,” Cumbo told the New York Times.
In September, the Republican National Committee filed lawsuits against two cities in Vermont that changed their charters earlier this year to allow noncitizens to vote in city elections, according to the New York Post.
In October, San Francisco supervisors approved a measure to permanently allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections, the San Francisco Examiner reported.
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