NYC Council ready to give non-citizens voting rights

NYIC Our City Our Vote 005 Photo credit New York Immigration Coalition
City Council members and advocates celebrate the expected passage of “Our City, Our Vote” legilsation that will allow non-citizens to vote in city elections. Photo-credit: New York Immigration Coalition.

City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) led other elected officials and several dozen advocate organizations in a City Hall Park rally Tuesday celebrating a measure that will allow roughly 800,000 non-citizens living in New York City for at least 30 days to vote in all city elections.

The measure dubbed “Our City, Our Vote ” now has a veto-proof supermajority 34 out of 51 City Council supporting the legislation guaranteeing passage at the council’s stated meeting on Dec. 9. It comes as nearly half of New York City households have a member with green card status or other undocumented status. 

It also comes as a number of city lawmakers – once part of those immigrant households themselves – are leading the movement to pass the bill.

“My mom had all of her kids in a public hospital,” said City Councilmember and Brooklyn Borough President-elect Antonio Reynoso, who attended the rally. “My mom couldn’t vote for a representative that could ensure a quality education for her kids.”

Reynoso’s family came from the Dominican Republic and raised him in Williamsburg, which he now represents in the council. 

“It’s about time that we finally get an opportunity where we show these representatives what we want, what we need and what we deserve at the voting booth, where it most matters,” Reynoso said. 

He thanked Rodriguez and the work of the New York Immigrant Coalition, who have been organizing the rallies and the letters as part of the campaign to get the bill passed. 

While Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he has “mixed feelings” about the bill because he feared that allowing noncitizens to vote might remove the incentive for people to become full citizens, Mayor-elect Eric Adams has voiced support for it.

Under the proposed legislation the New York City Board of Elections (BOE) would issue a separate voter registration form for green cardholders and other noncitizens who have the right to work. Those voters would then fill out a ballot with only New York City offices on it at the polls. 

The bill also calls for training poll workers and community education campaigns to ensure every voter receives the correct ballot.

Green card holder Dolma Lama, originally from Nepal and a member of the immigrant advocacy organization Desis Rising Up Movement (DRUM) noted how she helped get out the vote during the recent Nov. 2 election but was not allowed to vote herself. 

“I’m a permanent resident living in New York for almost a decade. I came to the United States when I was a teen. I went to college here. I went to high school here. I even pay my taxes here,” Lama said. 

“The one thing that I’m not allowed to do is vote. Interestingly, my love for the diverse communities here created the platform for me to be working at a social justice organization here,” she added. 

Once Lama is able to vote in municipal elections, she will join a group of hundreds of thousands that could change the trajectory of how lawmakers measure candidate support and how this country looks at voting rights on the city, state and national level.

Meanwhile, Arizona, Alabama, Colorado and Florida all recently passed laws to make sure that non-citizens are excluded from the voting booth, making NYC the black sheep of voting rights this year.

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