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NYC gives noncitizens the right to vote in local elections

By GreekNewsUSA

NEW YORK – New York City Council approved today a bill that allows more than 800,000 noncitizen New Yorkers to vote in municipal elections beginning in 2023, provided they are green card holders or have the right to work in the United States.

Noncitizens still will not be able to vote for President or members of Congress in federal elections, or in the state elections for Governor, judges and legislators.

According to an April report by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, about 10% of the city’s 8.4 million inhabitants have status as lawful permanent residents, mostly with green cards. There were an estimated 476,000 undocumented immigrants in the city in 2019, the report said. As per the same report, the top five countries of origin for foreign-born New Yorkers are the Dominican Republic, China, Mexico, Jamaica and Guyana.

The bill passed by a vote of 33-14, with two abstentions.

It was opposed largely by Republicans and moderate Democrats, many of whom questioned  the brevity of the 30-day residency requirement.  

“The NYC Council just passed the historic #Our City Our Vote legislation granting eligible lawful permanent residents in New York City the right to vote in municipal elections, paving the way to make New York City the largest city in the country to do so”, NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted.  

Council Minority Leader, Joseph Borelli (R- Staten Island) said the measure will undoubtedly end up in court. “It devalues citizenship, and citizenship is the standard by which the state constitution issues or allows for suffrage in New York state elections at all levels”, Borelli said.

“Thirty days is not enough for someone to decide who’s going to represent the greatest city in the world”, said Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Queens) who voted with Republicans.

“This bill in its current form doesn’t protect New York City; it makes it vulnerable to outside influence,”, Councilman Mark Gjonaj (D-Bronx) noted, while saying his parents immigrated to the United States from Albania.

Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, the first African American woman to serve in that position, brought up concerns regarding how the new bill would affect African American voters.  

Among the supporters of the bill that was sponsored by councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, are Council members Francisco Moya, an Ecuadoran American, Carlos Menchaca, the State’s first Mexican American elected official, and Margaret S. Chin, who is originally from Hong Kong.

“Our City Our Vote” legislation will take effect on January 1 and eligible noncitizens would be able to start registering to vote on December 9, 2022.  They could begin voting in local elections as of Jan. 9, 2023.  Noncitizens will register using different voter registration cards and will vote using a separate ballot on Election Day.

Anyone who violates the measure could face up to $500 in fines and a year in jail.

Outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will not veto the bill, although he has repeatedly raised concerns about its legality.

Noncitizens are already allowed to vote in several cities in Maryland and in two in Vermont. In San Francisco they can vote only in school board elections. Communities in Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine and District of Columbia are considering allowing noncitizen voting.

Last year, Alabama, Colorado and Florida adopted rules that would preempt any attempts to pass laws like the one in New York City. Arizona and North Dakota already had prohibited such voting.