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Photo: Murad Awawdeh | Twitter
Noncitizens will be able to vote in municipal elections as early as next year thanks to a new law. Photo: Murad Awawdeh/Twitter

NYC Mayor Eric Adams signs landmark noncitizen voting bill into law

The bill has its detractors, but will grant upwards of 7 million people the right to vote in municipal elections.

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More than 800,000 noncitizens and “Dreamers” in New York City will now have access to the polls — and can vote in municipal elections as early as next year — after Mayor Eric Adams allowed previously-passed legislation to automatically become law on Sunday, Jan. 9. 

The law 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., including "Dreamers,” to help select the city’s mayor, city councilmembers, borough presidents, comptroller, and public advocate.

NYC City Council passed the “Our City, Our Vote” bill in a 33-14 vote, even amid skepticism and criticism from former Mayor Bill de Blasio and several Republican councilmembers. 

“This not only will undermine the credibility of local city elections but will undoubtedly interfere with the integrity of state and national elections across New York State,” said New York Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy. 

Opponents have promised to challenge the new law, which City Council approved last month. But unless a judge halts its implementation, NYC will become the first major city to grant widespread municipal voting rights to noncitizens.

Noncitizens still wouldn’t be permitted to vote for presidential candidates, members of Congress in federal races, or in the state elections that pick the governor, judges and legislators, but it is a big step nonetheless. 

The Board of Elections must now get to work drawing out an implementation plan by July, which will include voter registration rules and provisions to create separate ballots for municipal races to prevent noncitizens from casting ballots in federal and state contests. 

This is a landmark moment for the country’s most populous city, where legally documented, voting-age noncitizens make up nearly one in nine of the city’s 7 million voting-age residents. 

“We build a stronger democracy when we include the voices of immigrants,” former City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez told the Associated Press

“As someone who has worked alongside Eric Adams for decades it comes of no surprise that he fully supports allowing nearly a million green card recipients and working permit holders to participate in our city’s democratic process,” Rodriguez wrote on Twitter. 

Adams said he looks forward to the law bringing millions more into the democratic process.

“I believe that New Yorkers should have a say in their government, which is why I have and will continue to support this important legislation,” Adams said in a statement released Saturday night. 

In his statement, Adams admitted to having some initial concerns about one aspect of the bill, but after a productive conversation with colleagues, his concerns were alleviated. 

“I believe allowing the legislation to be enacted is by far the best choice, and look forward to bringing millions more into the democratic process,” Adams said. 

More than a dozen communities across the country already allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont. Similar legislation is under consideration in Illinois, Maine and Massachusetts. 

Murad Awawdeh, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella organization which represents hundreds of immigrant and refugee groups, applauded the bill as “the largest expansion to our democracy in the past century.” 

“Immigrant New Yorkers will have the opportunity to be a part of the process and will no longer be rendered invisible,” Awawdeh said.

Manny Castro, Commissioner of the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, also lauded the new law, saying on Twitter that after living in the city for nearly his entire life, he will finally be able to vote in local elections. 

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