New York City immigrants who have legal working papers but are not yet U.S. citizens may soon be able to vote in municipal elections.
Legislation to grant non-citizen immigrants city voting rights will be introduced to the City Council Thursday, sources familiar with the matter told the Daily News.
The bill, which is sure to draw criticism from conservatives, would amend the City Charter to allow Big Apple residents with green cards and non-citizen work authorizations to cast ballots in mayoral and other local races.
The measure could mean that anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million city residents would gain the ability to vote, a potential sea-change in the city’s electoral dynamics.
“This bill is about making democracy better,” said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, the legislation’s chief sponsor. “It will invite anyone who wants to be a leader in this city to connect to these voters.”
He said that 22 Council members are backing the bill so far, as well as Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) supported an earlier version of the proposal in 2009, but it died in the City Council. He hopes this time will be different given the way immigrants have been treated by President Trump and the backlash against him.
“2020 is a year when the conversation about immigrants is completely different than 2009,” he said.
His bill would not give non-citizens the ability to vote in national or state elections.
Many advocates for the measure have been pushing hard for non-citizen residents to participate in the upcoming 2020 census, which will determine legislative districts and how much electoral influence states have in Congress. Those backers contend that their census efforts, as well as voter suppression in states like Georgia, have helped crystallize their feeling that now is the time for this bill to gain traction in the Council.
“It’s making sure we avoid taxation without representation,” said Steve Choi, director of the New York Immigration Coalition. “That’s a fundamental principle our democracy was founded on.”
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Susan Stamler, director of United Neighborhood Houses, another supporter of the bill, said that despite what opponents might say, the measure is not a radical move and is a simple matter of morals.
“It’s simply not fair,” she said of the current status quo.
Before the city’s old Board of Education was done away with and replaced with the Department of Education in 2002, non-citizens living in the five boroughs were permitted to vote in school board elections, but were barred from other races like the mayor’s, comptroller’s and public advocate’s contests.
That would change under Rodriguez’ bill. Non-citizens would get to vote in those races, as well as for borough presidents and City Council members, and would have the ability to join political parties and vote in city primary elections.
To be considered a New York City resident, a non-citizen with work authorization would have to live in the municipality for at least 30 days.
The bill will almost certainly draw howls from Trump and his supporters, some of whom have pushed for citizenship voting requirements in places like Florida.
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