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New York City Moves to Give Voting Rights to 800,000 Non-Citizens

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The city of New York is considering giving the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of non-U.S citizens for municipal elections. The bill, called “Our city, our vote” would only give the right to vote to lawful permanent residents (green card holders) or people who are legally allowed to work in the United States who have resided in NYC for more than 30 consecutive days.

The bill would create a new definition of voter, called municipal voter, who would register under the city board of elections (NYCBOE) list of registered voter, which is tasked to ensure that these non-citizen voters have the same rights and privileges as American citizens when voting in municipal elections. However, the bill states that municipal voters do not have the right to cast their ballots for state or federal elections.

According to the draft legislation, municipal voters would have the right to vote to elect the city’s major, controller, public advocate, city council member, and borough president. The law also includes primaries, special, general, run-off elections as well as special ballot measures.

The legislation, which would take effect next year, also creates a five-member advisory board in charge of providing recommendations on how to properly implement the law, the board would be made up of the city’s public advocate, two members directly appointed by the mayor and two members designated by the Speaker of the NYC Council. As a heavily blue city, all three main players of the advisory board (the public advocate, the mayor and the speaker of the council) are Democratic politicians.

Proponents of the legislation, which was first introduced two years ago, have framed the law as another attempt at expanding voting rights in response to what Democrats see as the Republican Party’s attempts to restrict voting access throughout the country.

According to estimates made by The New York Times, there are an estimated 808,000 non-citizens who live in New York and would qualify as municipal voters according to this new law. A substantial number of those who would be allowed to vote are originally from the Dominican Republic (130,000) and from China (117,500).

The bill is expected to get a vote in the city Council by a veto-proof majority on December 9 and, if passed as it is expected to, the law will enter in full effect on the 1st of January of 2021.

Key Democratic politicians are tore on the issue

Although the legislation itself is not new, it is only getting a vote in the city’s council mainly due to the election of Eric Adams as new major of the city. Adams, who was a police officer and holds unorthodox policy views, has said that he is in favor of the bill arguing that “we cannot be a beacon to the world and continue to attract the global talent, energy, and entrepreneurship that has allowed our city to thrive for centuries if we do not give immigrants a vote in how this city is run and what our priorities are for the future”.

Outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio has expressed some opposition to the bill, as he has said that the proposal would most likely not be legal and that passing legislation that would give the vote to non-citizens would also disincentivize immigrants to pursue their path to citizenship.

The latest move of the New York City legislative council comes at a time when the very foundational rock of American democracy has become extremely polarized. For example, earlier this year Georgia Republicans passed a new voting law in the state, a move that was widely criticized by Democrats, with President Biden even (falsely) saying that the law would restrict voting hours and that it represented a form of Jim Crow 2.0 aimed at restricting the vote of minorities.

The New York bill is a sign of how far apart both parties are in the issue of electoral law, with Republicans sometimes proposing additional requirements to access the ballot box, while some Democrats are actively proposing to expand, in some elections, the voting pool to non-citizens.

Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.

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