Immigration Jessica Corbett Politics

NYC Enacts Law Allowing Over 800,000 Immigrants to Vote in Local Elections

New York City's new law will allow noncitizens who have resided in the city for at least thirty days to vote in local elections.
Electoral workers wait inside a school in Manhattan during early voting in the New York City mayoral election on October 23, 2021. (Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images)

By Jessica Corbett / Common Dreams

A New York City law granting more than 800,000 lawful permanent residents the right to vote in local elections took effect Sunday after the recently elected mayor, Democrat Eric Adams, declined to veto it.

The New York City Council had voted 33-14—with two abstentions—for the measure to allow noncitizens who have resided in the city for at least 30 days to vote for mayor, council members, and other municipal offices beginning next year.

“The New York City Council is making history,” declared Ydanis Rodríguez, the former council member who sponsored the bill, last month. “New York City must be seen as a shining example for other progressive cities to follow.”

Rodríguez—an immigrant and naturalized citizen from the Dominican Republic who is now the city’s Department of Transportation commissioner—added Sunday that “we build a stronger democracy when we include the voices of immigrants.”

While some Republicans are threatening lawsuits, citing the state constitution, the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) must now craft an implementation plan by July, which the Associated Press reported will include “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 seven million voting-age inhabitants,” the AP noted while acknowledging that at least 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont had previously taken similar action.

Adams announced his decision in a statement Saturday, saying that “I believe that New Yorkers should have a say in their government, which is why I have and will continue to support this important legislation.”

“While I initially had some concerns about one aspect of the bill, I had a productive dialogue with my colleagues in government that put those concerns at ease,” he added. “I believe allowing the legislation to be enacted is by far the best choice, and look forward to bringing millions more into the democratic process.”

The mayor expanded on his position during a Sunday interview with CNN‘s Jake Tapper, explaining that while he had concerns about the 30-day part, he ultimately “thought it was more important to not veto the bill or get in the way at all and allow the bill to move forward.”

Nora Moran, director of policy and advocacy for United Neighborhood Houses, which has supported versions of this law for over a decade, praised Adams’ move.

“It sends both a message to immigrant communities who do a lot of work to keep New York City moving forward, that this is a mayor who supports them and champions them,” Moran told Gothamist. “His statement also signals to us a willingness to engage in dialogue around policy that just feels very refreshing.”

According to Gothamist:

Other supporters offered cautious optimism about moving in the next phase of their campaign, from lobbying for the bill’s passage to encouraging its effective implementation.

“This is going to be a very long process of ensuring that this huge expansion of the franchise is done in the right way,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

He said advocates will be watching closely to ensure the New York City Board of Elections sets up the new voter registration process in a timely manner so that those eligible to participate can begin voting in elections starting next year. That will require the city BOE to set up a new protocol to register and identify these noncitizen voters in their registration files, which feed into the state’s voter registration database.

Abou Sy Diakhate, co-chair of the Staten Island Immigrants Council, told the Staten Island Advance last month that the new law could lay the groundwork for future changes.

“Immigrants are the backbone of this country and all persons should receive fair treatment under the law and it is critical for the U.S. to encourage such initiatives,” he said. “From our side as advocates and community organizers, we will keep pushing the envelope and extend this law to the governor, and for congressional elections.”

The development in NYC comes as progressives nationwide push for federal voting rights legislation and the state of U.S. democracy has generatedconcern at a global level.

Jessica Corbett

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

12 comments

  1. Finally, good news. As if these immigrants don’t know where they came from and what they suffered and how this country “might” get better. That is the promise they come to and bring with them. Plus NYC is the most diverse of any city in the USA. Big Apple, rock on even when you drown in sea level rise.

  2. Yes, and lower the age of voting. These citizens are members of the communities where they live and work and pay taxes in, so it’s an easy YES.

    https://jacobinmag.com/2018/11/noncitizen-voting-undocumented-immigrants-midterm-elections

    Imagine: what if today, instead of being consigned to the shadows, the more than 22 million noncitizen immigrants in the US were heading to the polls? Sound preposterous?

    Voting by non-citizens is actually as old America itself. From the founding of the American Republic, voting rights were determined not by citizenship but by other criteria, such as race, gender, and property holdings. When women, post-emancipation African Americans, and poor white men were denied voting rights, it was due to elite antipathy — not because they lacked citizenship. Non-citizens in those years picked electoral winners and losers, and even held political office. What brought this period of “alien suffrage” to a close was simple nativism.

    The history of noncitizen voting rights in the US is a long one.

    During colonial times noncitizen voting was common and not particularly controversial, and the practice continued when the new states formed their constitutions. A logical extension of the revolutionary cry “No taxation without representation!”, “alien suffrage” also received rhetorical force from the democratic notion that governments derive their “just powers from the consent of the governed.” From 1776 to 1926, non-citizens in as many as forty states exercised their right to vote in local, state, and even federal elections, and in some cases held office.

    For most of this period, noncitizen voting was seen as a means to train newcomer white Christian men to be good neighbors and promote active participation in the life of their new homes before their eventual naturalization. In frontier states, it was also a way to lure new white male immigrants to permanently occupy Native lands, diffusing pressure from women, Native Americans, and African Americans who demanded political and property rights.

    The history of noncitizen voting rights in the US is a long one.
    With the influx of different kinds of immigrants, however, noncitizen voting rights became contentious, particularly when the newcomers challenged dominant groups. The War of 1812 slowed and even reversed the spread of alien suffrage in the North, in part by raising the specter of foreign “enemies.” In the lead-up to the Civil War, the South opposed immigrant voting because many of the new immigrants – particularly the Irish — opposed slavery.

    After the Civil War, noncitizen voting rights were introduced throughout the South and into the West, spurred on by the need for new labor. The expansive voting rights provided an incentive for newcomers to settle in the new territories and states, helping fuel settler colonialism. More positively, noncitizen voting also fueled immigrant political engagement and incorporation — which is why it became the object of derision and target for obliteration.

      1. Oh, that old time stupidty — try this one out:

        If you can read: https://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2022/01/10/parasite-empire-unravelled/

        Who holds the purse strings to the majority of the world’s wealth? There is a new global elite at the controls of our economic future, and here former Project Censored director and media monitoring sociologist Peter Phillips unveils for the general reader just who these players are. The book includes such power players as Larry Fink, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, and Warren Buffett.

        As the number of men with as much wealth as half the world fell from sixty-two to just eight between January 2016 and January 2017, according to Oxfam International, fewer than 200 super-connected asset managers at only 17 asset management firms—each with well over a trillion dollars in assets under management–now represent the financial core of the world’s transnational capitalist class. Members of the global power elite are the management–the facilitators–of world capitalism, the firewall protecting the capital investment, growth, and debt collection that keeps the status quo from changing. Each chapter in Giants identifies by name the members of this international club of multi-millionaires, their 17 global financial companies—and including NGOs such as the Group of Thirty and the Trilateral Commission—and their transnational military protectors, so the reader, for the first time anywhere, can identify who constitutes this network of influence, where the wealth is concentrated, how it suppresses social movements, and how it can be redistributed for maximum systemic change.

        Keep Empire Files independent and ad-free: http://www.patreon.com/empirefiles

        Abby Martin sits down with Peter Phillips, former director of Project Censored and professor of Political Sociology at Sonoma State University. His new book “Giants: The Global Power Elite” details the 17 transnational investment firms which control over $50 trillion in wealth—and how they are kept in power by their activists, facilitators and protectors.

  3. Congratulations to New York City on adding to the legitimacy of their elections! Now add the incarcerated back on to the roles and you’re almost finished! Disenfranchisement does nothing but hurt democracy and is a step toward the fascism the oligarchs are trying for.

  4. This is the best news possible for immigrants who enhance our way of life by their presence and deserve access to he ballot. Their vote is as important as anyone’s and will make the outcome more reflective of the whole.

  5. This pretty obviously will add credence to the Republicans “big lie.” Amazing how the Democrats always play into their hands. It’s almost like they are on the same team….

  6. I read the comments and again for the tenth time just today I think to myself the world has gone mad. First of all democracy is dead and pushing up daisies. It is all a farce or immense proportions. Second, if it wasn’t a farce of immense proportions and votes actually mattered…then like all democratic countries since the dawn of time, voting is only allowed to actual citizens. This isn’t being extreme in the least. It is simple common sense.

    What this is, is the usual divide and conquer strategy in action. The Fake Left…which is the only thing we have in America constantly implements ridiculous strategies bound to fail with the intention of discrediting the left as a whole while pouring gas on the fire on the right who can then sit back in contempt and blame socialism and communism for all their problems.

    It is sick. It is twisted. Worse, it works like a charm. We are so immensely screwed.

  7. corruption most admired by the reactionary fake progressive, already a nation of illiterate puritans …as Gorer observed, “the US lib/progressive wants to preserve the essence of the past, the US conservative wants more progress; the European radical wants to hasten the transformation of the future, the European conservative wants to preserve the essence of the past.” quite obvious!

    1. This is how people are indoctrinated to hate the system that gives power to the people—socialism, and are forced to crave the system that strangles them—capitalism. Here is a brief summary of how socialism is actively demonized in our society:

      Point out results of imperial assaults against socialist countries and claim socialism doesn’t work.Examples:Give them economic sanctions, then call the countries “economic disasters”.Send death squads to destabilize their countries, then call the enemies of the western hegemony “strong man,” “dictator,” “butcher” and so on.Attempt to overthrow the government by massive propaganda campaigns, then call them oppressive.
      2. Claim that no ideology, country or government is perfect, in order to ignore the injustice and inhumanity systematically and structurally imposed on the entire capitalist hegemony and beyond by the western ruling class.

      Examples:

      Claim that socialism and capitalism are the same when they are not historically and in practice. Capitalism is a system guided by forces of accumulated wealth and power. It manifests as imperialism at the global scale. Historically, socialism has emerged to counter imperial exploitation and subjugation. Socialist countries have been vehemently assaulted by organized forces of imperialism. The equation totally dismisses these obvious historical dynamics, while also obscuring the very nature and mechanism of capitalism itself. This position is often expressed with the use of the word totalitarianism. Although the term has been largely normalized in the western cultural sphere, historically, this term has been used by reactionary forces to equate fascism (which operates within the framework of capitalism) and socialist countries with the intention of demonizing socialist countries.

      Claim that all violence must stop as the capitalist hegemony targets a socialist country, knowing that the imperial hegemony can topple the socialist country by many means if the country stops engaging in self-defense.

      Demonize political leaders who defy the western hegemony saying that although the West is atrocious the dictators aren’t worth saving anyway.

      3. Utilize an emotional personal anecdote in demonizing “socialism” in its entirety, totally ignoring its inner workings to forward the interests of the people, imperial dynamics and so on. Reactionary voices of those who betray their countries of origin in seeking to secure positions within the empire are often promoted by the capitalist media.

      Examples:

      “My grand dad was killed by communists.”

      “My family members were imprisoned by a socialist regime.”

      “So and so is killing its own people. I know because I’m from there and you are not.”

      4. Simply rely on propaganda lies concocted by capitalist social institutions.

      Examples:

      Just mock, ridicule and demonize socialists. The notion is fully normalized so there is no need to explain. The burden of proof is on those who defy the notion.

      Engage in 1, 2 and 3 using the propaganda lies.

      Where is this giant monster swinging right to left, guided by the selfish motives of the ruling class, going? Is it going to put us all in a digital prison as it continues to digitalize, financialize, and transhumanize, colonizing humanity and nature? Is it going to declare a war against China? These are very significant concerns but it is unlikely that they will be on the table for all of us to examine anytime soon. Our thoughts and ideas are constantly, systemically and structurally beaten into shapes by layers of capitalist institutions over and over so that they fit into the capitalist framework. Then the momentums of pros and cons are safely exchanged within the imperial framework at the expense of the people who struggle to secure their livelihood within it.

      When we are beaten by the capitalists, we are put against each other. As we fight back, we are forced to attack our fellow community members as our institutions are further colonized as I described above. In the corporate political theater billions of dollars are spent in picking between hardened corporatist Joe Biden, and “reality TV show star” Donald Trump, but we cannot embrace the political institution which can truly function as our own—such a drastic shift is firmly demonized, again, as “socialism,” “communism,” Marxism and so on.

  8. If you live in this country you should be permitted to participate in its practices of population control.

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