New York may become the first major city in the country to allow noncitizen residents to vote in municipal elections.
At a joint hearing on Thursday, May 9, the City Council’s committees on immigration and on government relations considered new voting legislation. It would allow immigrants who have been legally in New York for six months under designations including green cards and student visas to vote in mayoral, city council and other local elections.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Immigration Committee Chair Daniel Dromm along with 34 of the 51 councilmembers. Dromm noted that this level of support would make the bill immune to mayoral veto.
“I feel this is important because it will really empower a community like mine,” said Dromm. “I feel that it is wrong to deny the people the right to participate in the community they live in.”
The next step for the bill is to go to the floor of the whole City Council for a vote by the end of the year.
“We have the votes, so it’s a good chance that this will happen,” said Dromm. “We’re not going to give up, no matter what happens. This will change politics in New York City forever. By bringing more people in, it would shift the priorities.”
The bill is coming under fire for the six-month time requirement.
According to Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr., that is not long enough for someone to be allowed to vote in elections affecting the community.
“The current proposal has a ridiculously low time period to be in this country to even consider someone for voting,” said Vallone. “Six months is basically someone on a student visa. That doesn’t indicate any desire to spend the rest of their lives here.”