NEW YORK — New York City, long a beacon for immigrants, became the largest place in the country to give noncitizens the right to vote in local elections after a vote by local legislators Thursday.
New York City Council passed the legislation Thursday to grant eligible lawful permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections
The law impacts about 800,000 legally documented permanent residents who live, work and pay taxes in New York City who, until now, did not have a say in the democratic process; the approval of the “Our City, Our Vote” bill changed that, allowing legally documented, voting-age noncitizens who have lived in New York for at least one month to vote in city elections.
Those allowed to vote in local elections would include Green Card holders, those authorized to work in the U.S. and “Dreamers.”
These New Yorkers now have a say in electing the city’s mayor, council members, borough presidents, comptroller and public advocate.
The city will create a separate voter registration form for legal permanent residents and give them specific ballots that only list New York City elections and do not include federal or state races. These individuals would still not be allowed to vote for those offices.
The measure had broad support within the City Council. Mayor Bill de Blasio has raised concerns about the wisdom and legality of the legislation, but said he won’t veto it.
“I want to make sure that citizenship, which people work so hard to achieve, is valued and is given its full weight,” he said. “I want to make sure people become citizens who have that right and don’t hesitate. So, I really want to make sure that there’s maximum incentive to finish the citizenship process. I think there’s some open questions here that still cause me to feel concerned about this. In the end, this is the issue, obviously, the City Council is going to look at and potentially act on it.”
New York State Senate Republicans slammed the move Thursday, calling it “a slap in the face to every law-abiding American citizen.”
Supporters say that giving noncitizens the vote would make elected officials more accountable to a huge segment of the city’s population.
More than a dozen communities across the United States currently allow noncitizens to vote, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont.
San Francisco, through a ballot initiative ratified by voters in 2016, began allowing noncitizens to vote in school board elections — which was also true in New York City until it abolished its boards in 2002 and gave control of schools to the mayor.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.