New York City Makes Historic Elections Change

Measure allowing noncitizen voting becomes law
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 9, 2022 12:05 PM CST
New York City Makes Historic Elections Change
New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez speaks at a rally outside City Hall last month, just before a vote on allowing lawful permanent residents to vote in some elections.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

More than 800,000 noncitizens and "Dreamers" in New York City will have access to the ballot box—and could vote in municipal elections as early as next year—after Mayor Eric Adams allowed legislation to automatically become law Sunday. Opponents have vowed to challenge the law, which the City Council approved a month ago. Unless a judge halts its implementation, New York City is the first major US city to grant widespread municipal voting rights to noncitizens, the AP reports. More than a dozen US communities allow noncitizens to cast ballots in local elections.

Opponents say the council lacks the authority to grant voting rights and should have sought action by state lawmakers. Noncitizens still wouldn't be able to vote for president or members of Congress, or in the state elections that pick the governor, judges, and legislators. The Board of Elections has until July to create an implementation plan, including voter registration rules and provisions that would create separate ballots for municipal races to prevent noncitizens from casting ballots in federal and state contests. It's a watershed moment for the nation's most populous city, where legally documented, voting-age noncitizens comprise nearly one in nine of the city's 7 million voting-age inhabitants.

The measure 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 US, including "Dreamers,” to help select the city's mayor, City Council members, borough presidents, comptroller, and public advocate. "We build a stronger democracy when we include the voices of immigrants," said former City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, who led the campaign for the change. The first elections in which noncitizens would be allowed to vote are in 2023. States including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida, have adopted rules that would preempt any attempts to pass laws like the one in New York City.

(Read more New York City stories.)

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