New York City could soon become the first major city in the country to give non-citizens the right to vote. The proposal, which would allow certain non-citizens to vote in local elections, appears to have a veto-proof majority in the New York City Council — enough to overcome opposition by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As hearings on the proposal get underway Thursday, supporters are optimistic it will become law by the end of the year and believe it will have an impact beyond the five boroughs. “It’s going to be huge and just imagine the implications that are involved here,” Councilman Daniel Dromm, one of the co-sponsors of the legislation along with Councilwoman Gale Brewer, told TPM Wednesday.
Currently, citizenship is a requirement for voters throughout New York state. This legislation, “Voting By Non-Citizen Residents,” would allow immigrants who are “lawfully present in the United States” and have lived in New York for “six months or longer” on the date of a given election to vote provided they meet all the other current requirements for voter registration in New York State. This means they must “not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction” and “not be declared mentally incompetent by a court.” For their first time voting, they must also provide identification including; “copy of a valid photo ID, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or some other government document that shows your name or address.” Identification requirements would not remain after their initial vote. The bill only affects local races and calls for the registration forms provided to these “municipal voters” to specify that they “are not qualified to vote in state or federal elections.”
“This is extremely important, because it’s based on the founding principle of this country and that was, ‘No Taxation Without Representation.’ All of the people who would be included in this and would be allowed to vote are paying taxes, they’ve contributed to society,” Dromm said.
If the City Council passes the proposal, New York would be, by far, the largest city in the nation that allows non-citizens to vote. Non-citizen voting currently exists in multiple smaller municipalities in Maryland and Massachusetts. The locations that have passed immigrant voting in Massachusetts have been unable to implement it because they need state approval. According to Ron Hayduk, an author, professor at Queens College, and co-founder of the New York Coalition To Expand Voting Rights, who was part of the team that helped advise on the creation of the bill, contends that, as a charter city, New York would not need approval from the state. However, Hayduk acknowledged there is some dispute on that issue, which he said will be debated at a joint hearing conducted Thursday by the Council’s committees on immigration and governmental operations.