New York’s City Council made headlines for nixing a statue of Thomas Jefferson, and it’s stayed in the headlines for its radical new voting bill.
The bill — called Introduction Number 1867 — would allow as many as 800,000 non-citizens to vote in elections for mayor, council, and city comptroller.
In its plain text, the bill says, “The bill would provide a process for lawful permanent residents in New York city to vote in municipal elections.” It doesn’t change state or federal elections.
The bill has been signed by 34 of the council’s 51 members, well over the two-thirds margin needed to overturn a veto.
With a margin that large, the bill is expected to pass.
“We have the votes,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson told the New York Post Tuesday. “It’s going to be a very big deal.”
Supporters argue that green card holders deserve representation in exchange for their taxation.
Opponents point out that the bill is allowing foreign citizens to vote in American elections.
Republican Councilmember Joseph Borelli told the New York Times that the bill would “weaken” U.S. citizens’ votes.
Outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, worried that this bill would disincentivize permanent residents from becoming citizens.
“I want citizenship to be something that people pursue fully, quickly, every chance they get. I’m concerned about that,” de Blasio said at a briefing on Tuesday. “There’s a lot of people that do not pursue full citizenship even though they can, and that to me is an issue.”
However, the incoming Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, tweeted his support for the bill.
In a democracy, nothing is more fundamental than the right to vote.
Yet almost one million NYers are currently denied that right.
That’s why I’m proud to join the calls for the Council to #PassIntro1867
My testimony to the Council’s Cmte on Government Operations hearing today: pic.twitter.com/Isrnr1yKBP
— Eric Adams (@BKBoroHall) September 20, 2021
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The city once allowed green card holders to vote in elections for school boards, but it abolished the school boards two decades ago.
Some municipalities in Maryland and Vermont allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, but New York would become the largest municipality to do so.
Plus, New York’s bill would extend the vote not only to green card holders, but also to “Dreamers”: illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and who have been allowed to stay through a federal program called D.A.C.A.
The text of the bill allows voter registration for anyone “authorized to work in the United States,” including Dreamers.
Some nearby politicians suspect that the city government is overstepping its authority to reform elections. There’s disagreement as to whether this power belongs to the state government or the local government.
Mayor de Blasio said that the city council had entered a gray area.
“I’m also concerned about the legal question, which is unclear whether it’s something that can be done on the local level,” de Blasio said at Tuesday’s briefing. “So, we’ll look at the legislation.”
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Johnson described the legislation as legal. Still, he acknowledged his constituents’ freedom to challenge the measure in court.
“We believe we’re on solid legal ground,” Johnson said at a press conference Tuesday. “You can never be entirely sure on anything that we pass. I mean, we get sued all the time on bills and ultimately, judges make decisions.”
Johnson scheduled the vote for Dec. 9.
The Horn editorial team