A city council proposal in New York City is considering offering voting rights to some non-citizens living in the city.
Hearings for the proposal, which currently has a veto-proof majority vote, are scheduled to begin Thursday, and advocates say they hope the proposal will become law before the end of the year. If the proposal passes, New York will become the first major city to pass a law allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections.
“It’s going to be huge, and just imagine the implications that are involved here,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, one of the proposal’s co-sponsors, to Talking Points Memo on Wednesday.
The legislation would only apply to immigrants “lawfully present in the United States” and who have lived in New York City for more than six months. They must also not be “in prison or on parole for a felony conviction” in order to vote under the new law. Registration would include a somewhat lengthy process proving residency and legal status, and would only allow eligible non-citizens to vote in local, not state or federal, elections.
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“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.
Though the bill has strong support, especially from representatives of boroughs with more than 50 percent immigrant populations, New York City May Michael Bloomberg does not support the bill. Bloomberg has been a strong advocate of immigration reform, but contends that voting is a right that should be reserved for citizens only.
“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,” Evelyn Erskine, a spokeswoman for the mayor said.
Nevertheless, the law seems imminent, which could be an excellent improvement for civic engagement, according to Dromm.
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“Having the ability to participate in elections would create a lot more civic engagement and, on a political level, I don’t think communities like the community that I represent, which is 68 percent immigrant, would ever be able to be ignored again by anybody running for major citywide office in New York City,” Dromm said.