NYC Might Let Documented Immigrants Vote in Local Elections

By

At a hearing today, the City Council will consider new legislation that would allow non-citizen permanent residents to vote in municipal elections, which could make New York the first major city in the country with a such a law. And it's looking good: "I'm optimistic both with the committee and on the floor and I would hope that we could pass this by the end of the year," said the bill's co-sponsor Daniel Dromm, who does not expect it to affect the upcoming mayoral election. Nonetheless, he said, "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."

According to the new rules, immigrants who have been "lawfully present" in New York for six months or more could vote in local elections, assuming they meet all of the other requirements to register. "There's legal experts that are going to be testifying … that are going to make the case that New York City has the authority to enact this on its own and it will not come into conflict with any state law," an architect of the bill told Talking Points Memo. "There may be others that dispute that and, if that's the case, it may end up in the courts."

The other hurdle is Michael Bloomberg, whose spokesperson said in a statement, "The Mayor believes voting is the most important right we are granted as citizens and you should have to go through the process of becoming a citizen and declaring allegiance to this country before being given that right. That being said, this bill violates the State constitution and the Administration does not support it." As of now, though, assuming City Council Speaker Christine Quinn would bring the bill to the floor for a vote, it is supported by enough members to overcome a Bloomberg veto.