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New York City is proudly home to millions of working, taxpaying immigrants, yet those who are not U.S. citizens have no power at the ballot box to determine who represents them. The Council passed historic legislation yesterday that would extend voting rights to certain non-citizen New Yorkers in municipal elections. Eligible non-citizen New Yorkers now have the right to vote in local elections.
Int. No. 1867, sponsored by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, will give certain non-United States citizens living in New York City the right to vote in local elections. A person will be entitled to vote under this bill if they (i) are either a lawful permanent resident or authorized to work in the United States, (ii) have been a resident of New York City for at least 30 consecutive days, and (iii) meet all the qualifications for registering to vote under the Election Law other than U.S. citizenship. Any person who satisfies these criteria will be eligible to register as a “municipal voter” with the NYC Board of Elections. Once registered, they will be entitled to vote in any primary, special, general, or run-off election for Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough President, or Council Member, and on any local ballot initiative. The bill does not authorize municipal voters to vote in any state or federal elections.
“In one of the most diverse cities in the world, we need to ensure that there is adequate representation for all New Yorkers. That starts by expanding the scope of who is allowed to vote in our local elections,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. “Immigrants in New York City own over half of the local businesses and contribute over $190 billion dollars to the citywide GDP. During the height of the pandemic, it was our immigrant New Yorkers who kept New York City running. Over half of our front-line essential workers are immigrants and approximately 1 in 5 are non-citizens New Yorkers. They have all earned the right to participate in our city elections. I want to thank Speaker Johnson, my colleagues at the council, The New York Immigration Coalition, United Neighborhood Houses, and the Our City, Our Vote coalition for their support and for getting us to this point. Today, we are writing a new chapter in our city’s history. One that will finally include the voices of all immigrant New Yorkers who hold green cards, working authorizations, DACA, or TPS.”
At each local election, municipal voters will vote at the same polling places as U.S. citizen voters, and will not be required to form a separate line. If there are state and federal races taking place on the same day, municipal voters will be given a separate ballot that only includes local races. Municipal voters will be eligible to enroll in a political party for purposes of voting in local primary elections.
The BOE will be required to develop a new registration form for municipal voters. Such forms will need to be made available wherever voter registration forms for U.S. citizens are made available, and will need to be translated into any languages that U.S. citizen voter registration forms are translated into under state and federal law (currently, such forms must be translated into Spanish, Bengali, Korean and Chinese). All federal, state, and local confidentiality policies that pertain to U.S. citizens will also apply to municipal voters, and the BOE will be prohibited from publishing any list of registered municipal voters separately or distinctly from the complete list of all voters entitled to vote in New York City.
The bill will create an advisory group to provide recommendations regarding the implementation of this new system of municipal voting. The committee will be chaired by the Public Advocate, and will include two members appointed by the Mayor, and two members appointed by the Speaker. The advisory group will be required to meet at least twice per year and publish a report annually.
Under this bill, eligible non-citizens will be allowed to begin registering to vote as municipal voters on December 9, 2022, and registered municipal voters will be eligible to begin voting in local elections on January 9, 2023.