New York City’s electorate is about to get a whole lot bigger.
The City Council has reached a deal to pass a bill next month that will give nearly 1 million immigrant New Yorkers the right to vote in local elections.
The bill, crafted by Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, will extend voting rights to those who have permanent legal resident status, most of whom are green cardholders.
Rodriguez, a Democrat whose district includes Washington Heights, said Wednesday he reached an agreement this week with Council Speaker Corey Johnson to bring the bill to a vote on Dec. 9. The measure already has the support of a veto-proof majority of the Council, Rodriguez noted, making it a surefire success.
“I think it’s an important gift for our brother and sister New Yorkers during this holiday to let them know we’re giving them the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Rodriguez, a native of the Dominican Republic who himself held a green card for nearly two decades before becoming a citizen in 2000. “The message we’re sending is that we recognize their contributions”
There are about 808,000 immigrants with permanent legal status in the five boroughs, according to Mayor de Blasio’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
Under Rodriguez’s bill, they will be allowed to vote for mayor, comptroller, Council and other city-level positions. The legislation does not extend the right to vote for federal or state offices including the U.S. president, a member of U.S. Congress and governor.
Immigration advocates have long called for affording voting rights to green card holders, arguing that they contribute to society in the same way citizens do, including by paying both federal and local taxes.
“We are ready to make history and expand our democracy! #OurCityOurVote will become a reality,” tweeted Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “I can’t express my deep admiration and gratitude.”
Some skepticism remains over whether Rodriguez’s bill can withstand legal scrutiny without an amendment to the state Constitution.
Among the skeptics is de Blasio, who said Tuesday that he remains concerned about the legality of the bill.
Still, de Blasio voiced support for the measure and confirmed he won’t stand in the way of it once passed by the Council.
“I do have reservations, but obviously I want to see exactly what they’re doing,” de Blasio told reporters, adding that he “certainly” won’t veto the bill despite remaining on the fence about whether it’s “the right way to go about this.”
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