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New York City will likely be the largest place in the U.S. to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
New York City will likely be the largest place in the U.S. to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New York City poised to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections

The measure has broad support on NYC city council, and will likely be passed on Thursday, Dec. 9.

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New York City, a longtime sanctuary for immigrants, is on the verge of becoming the largest place in the country to give noncitizens the right to vote in local elections.

One in nine of the city’s 7 million voting-age residents are undocumented people. Under a bill close to approval, about 800,000 noncitizens would be able to cast ballots in elections to choose the mayor, City Council members, and other municipal officeholders. 

Noncitizens still wouldn’t be able to vote for president, members of Congress in federal races, and in state elections that choose the governor, judges and legislators. 

The measure already has broad support within the City Council and it is poised to ratify the proposal on Thursday, Dec. 9. Mayor Bill de Blasio has voiced concerns over the wisdom and legality of the legislation, but said he won’t veto it. 

The law would give an electoral voice for many New Yorkers who love the city and have made it their home, but can’t easily become citizens or would rather remain citizens of their home nations for various reasons. 

It would also apply to DACA recipients, or “Dreamers,” like 32-year-old Eva Santos, who was brought to the U.S. by her parents at age 11 as an unauthorized immigrant, but wasn’t able to vote like her friends or attend college when she turned 18. 

“It was really hard for me to see how my other friends were able to make decisions for their future, and I couldn’t,” Santos, now a community organizer, told NBC News.

More than a dozen communities across the country currently permit noncitizens to vote, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont.

In 2016, San Francisco 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.

Last year, voters in Colorado, Florida, and Alabama approved measures stating that only U.S citizens could vote, joining North Dakota and Arizona in adopting regulations that would preempt any attempts to pass any laws like the one being considered in New York City. 

Sponsor of the bill, NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, told Riverdale Press that restoring the right of noncitizens to vote in local elections will be a historic moment. 

“In contrast to those states that are reducing voting participation, here in New York City, we’re doing it a different way. Recognizing the contribution that those New Yorkers deserve by giving them the voice that they need to be able to elect the leaders who will be making decisions on their taxpayer dollars,” Rodriguez said. 

The proposal would allow noncitizens who have been lawful permanent residents of the city for at least 30 days, as well as those authorized to work in the U.S., to help select the city’s mayor, city council members, borough presidents, comptroller and public advocate. 

The law would direct the Board of Elections to design a plan by July, including voter registration rules and provisions that would create separate ballots for municipal races to prevent noncitizens from voting in federal and state contests. Noncitizens wouldn’t be allowed to vote until elections in 2023. 

Anu Joshi, vice president of police of the New York Immigration Coalition, told NBC News that giving noncitizens the right to vote could empower them to become a political force that “can’t be easily ignored.” 

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