Non-citizens still couldn’t vote for president or members of Congress in federal races, or in state elections that choose governor, judges, and lawmakers.
Few things prevent the effort from becoming law. The measure enjoys broad support within the city council, which is expected to ratify the proposal on Thursday. Mayor Bill de Blasio has raised concerns about the wisdom and legality of the legislation, but said he would not veto it.
The law would give an electoral voice to the many New Yorkers who love the city and have made it their permanent home, but cannot easily become U.S. citizens or would instead remain citizens of their home country for a variety of reasons.
It would also cover “dreamers” like Eva Santos, 32, who was brought to the United States by her parents at the age of 11 as an unauthorized immigrant, but was unable to vote like her friends. or go to college when she turned 18.
“It was really hard for me to see how my other friends could make decisions for their future, and I couldn’t,” said Santos, now a community organizer.
More than a dozen communities across the United States currently allow non-citizens to vote, including 11 cities in Maryland and two in Vermont.
San Francisco, thanks to a voting initiative ratified by voters in 2016, began allowing non-citizens to vote in school board elections – which was also true in New York until it abolished its boards in 2002 and gives control of schools to the mayor.
The move to Democratic-controlled New York City is a counterpoint to restrictions in some states, where Republicans have espoused unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud by non-citizens in the federal election.
Last year, voters in Alabama, Colorado and Florida ratified measures specifying that only U.S. citizens can vote, joining Arizona and North Dakota in passing rules that would prevent any attempts to vote. adoption of laws such as the one envisaged in New York.
“I think there are people in our society who fall asleep with so much fear of immigrants that they are trying to assert their right to elect their local leaders,” New York City Councilor Ydanis Rodriguez said, originally from the Dominican Republic and could not vote until he became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
“It’s about whether we live in New York, if we contribute to New York and pay taxes in New York,” said Rodriguez, a Democrat.
De Blasio, however, questioned whether the measure would survive a legal challenge. Federal law allows states and local governments to decide who can vote in their elections, but some, including the mayor, have questioned whether state lawmakers should act first to grant the city power. extend the right to vote to non-citizens.
“Look, there is obviously an argument: we want people to be involved, we want to hear people’s voices,” de Blasio recently said on the TV news show “Inside the Hotel de city”.
“I still have a concern about this. Citizenship has extraordinary value. People are working so hard for it, ”he said. “We need people all over the place to want to be citizens. “
City Council Minority Leader Joseph Borelli, a Republican from Staten Island, said the measure would undoubtedly end up in court.
“It devalues citizenship, and citizenship is the standard by which the state constitution grants or permits suffrage in New York state elections at all levels,” Borelli said.
The proposal would allow non-citizens who have been lawful permanent residents of the city for at least 30 days, as well as those authorized to work in the United States, including so-called “dreamers,” to help select the mayor of the city, members of the municipal council, district presidents, controller and public lawyer.
The law would direct the Council of Elections to develop an implementation plan by July, including voter registration rules and provisions that would create separate ballots for municipal races to prevent non-voting. -citizens to vote in federal and state contests. Non-citizens would not be allowed to vote until the 2023 election.
Giving non-residents the right to vote could allow them to become a political force that cannot be easily ignored, said Anu Joshi, vice president of policy for the New York Immigration Coalition.
New York City, with more than 3 million foreign-born residents, would be a suitable place to anchor a national movement to expand immigrant voting rights, said Ron Hayduk, now a political science professor at the He State University of San Francisco but who has spent years in New York has imbibed the non-citizen suffrage movement.
“New York, the home of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, prides itself on being the place of immigration,” he noted. “So there’s this question of what place do immigrants have in our city – are they really New Yorkers, are they full-fledged New Yorkers in the sense of qualifying and deserving the right to vote and shape its political future? “
The answer should be a “definite yes”, he said.