The progressive New York coalition “Our City, Our Vote” asked the New York City Council to “immediately” approve a bill to allow residents without citizenship to vote in the municipal elections whose first public hearing took place last Monday.
Although it has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the full Council, the bill seeks to allow immigrants with permanent residency and green card holders to vote in primaries, special or general elections in the city.
Members of “Our City, Our Vote” rallied in front of City Hall to ask for council members’ support. The organization estimates that Rodriguez’s legislation would add about 900,000 new voters to the New York City rolls.
The city’s Board of Elections would be responsible for registration and would have to produce separate ballots for non-citizen voters.
The bill was introduced by progressive Dominican-born Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who described it as a “recognition of the contributions of immigrants” and not as “a favor” granted to them. “If they pay taxes, they should have the right to elect their leaders,” Rodriguez said.
Democratic New York mayoral candidate Eric Adams also supports the bill, the Daily News reported in February. Adams said that “the right to vote is fundamental to our democracy,” but that immigrants are not given a vote “on how the city is run.”
Republican resistance in New York to the initiative
Although Democrats hold a majority in the Council, a trio of Republicans opposed the measure and held a press conference. Potential Mid-Island City Council candidate David Carr, Councilman Joe Borelli (R-South Shore) and Assemblyman Mike Tannousis (R-East Shore / Brooklyn) spoke out against the legislation.
“We believe that citizenship is a requirement to run and hold public office in this city, as well as to be able to vote in elections in public office in this city,” Carr said. “Citizenship comes with certain responsibilities and one of those is choosing the leaders that are going to represent us.”
For his part, Tannousis used his family’s story as an example. “My dad came here and worked hard. He got his papers in order, became an American citizen, and votes in every single election, because he worked hard to have that right to vote. It is very, very important that that right is reserved for American citizens,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), who is the daughter of immigrants, also voiced her opposition to the proposal.
Some municipalities in Maryland, Vermont and California already allow permanent residents to vote in certain types of local elections.