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City Council Likely to Pass Legislation Permitting Noncitizens the Right to Vote in Local Elections

Council Members Ydanis Rodriguez and Antonio Reynoso rally with immigrant advocates outside City Hall Tuesday in support of Intro 1867 (Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez via Twitter)

Nov. 24, 2021 By Allie Griffin

New York City is on track to allow noncitizens the right to vote in local elections.

City lawmakers will likely pass legislation next month that will give the city’s more than 800,000 green card holders and authorized workers the right to partake in municipal elections.

The bill’s prime sponsor Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez — who emigrated from the Dominican Republic at 18 and is a former green card holder himself — announced Tuesday that the council will vote on the legislation on Dec. 9. He made the announcement during a rally in support of the bill outside City Hall.

The legislation, titled “Our City, Our Vote”, has been sponsored by 34 of the 51 council members and has the backing of the public advocate. The bill has a veto-proof majority.

The new law would make New York City the largest municipality in the country permitting noncitizens the right to vote in local elections, according to the New York Times.

The bill applies to both green card holders and noncitizen residents who are legally allowed to work in the country. It requires noncitizen voters to have lived in the city for at least 30 consecutive days prior to the election.

The bill would permit legal residents with the right to vote in city elections, such as for mayor, public advocate, comptroller and their local council member. They would still be unable to vote in state and federal elections.

The passage of the bill, however, would come at a time when several states across the country are putting in place greater voter restrictions.

Rodriguez, who became a citizen in 2000, said New York City should be a leader in expanding voting rights when other cities and states in the nation are “attacking voting rights.”

“[We are] restoring the rights of individuals who pay their taxes,” he said at the rally. “This is about taxation without representation.”

Eight Queens council members are sponsors of the bill. Council Members Daniel Dromm, I. Daneek Miller, Jimmy Van Bramer, Antonio Reynoso, Adrienne Adams, Peter Koo, Selvena Brooks-Powers and Francisco Moya are among the bill’s sponsors.

Former Council Members Donovan Richards and Costa Constantinides were also sponsors before they left the council.

Queens Council Members Paul Vallone, Barry Grodenchik, James Gennaro, Karen Koslowitz, Robert Holden and Eric Ulrich, meanwhile, have not signed on as sponsors.

Holden has been critical of the legislation, arguing that voting rights should be reserved for U.S. citizens alone.

He called the bill “ridiculous” and said the number of sponsors it has was “alarming” during a radio show in September.

“We keep chipping away at the value of citizenship,” Holden said on Cats at Night with John Catsimatidis.

“What city or even what country would allow up to a million — it could be 950,000 by an estimate — foreigners to vote in our elections?” he questioned. “I mean these are people that are not citizens. Can you imagine that?”

Holden also took issue with the bill’s stipulation that only requires noncitizen residents to live in the city for 30 days prior to a local election. He believes the month-long period is too short.

In addition, Holden questioned whether the city had the legal authority to grant noncitizens voting rights.

Advocates of the bill, however, say that the city does have the authority.

Supporters also argue that most legal residents pay taxes and they should have a say—at the ballot box—as to who leads the city and how taxpayer funds are spent.

Reynoso, a sponsor of the bill, joined advocates at the rally outside City Hall Tuesday and said the bill was of personal significance to him—as the son of immigrants.

The council member’s parents came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic and then started a family in Brooklyn. They were unable to vote, he said, despite paying taxes and using public services, such as schools.

“Immigrants mean so much to this city…,” Reynoso, who represents parts of both Queens and Brooklyn, said.

Next month’s vote has been a long time coming, its supporters say. An earlier version of the bill was first introduced during the Council’s 2010-2013 session but was not put up for a vote. The bill was revised and introduced in its current version, as Intro 1867, on Jan. 23, 2020 — nearly two years ago.

Van Bramer has been a sponsor of the legislation since 2010, he said.

“Every New Yorker who lives here deserves a voice in the future…,” he said at a June rally supporting the legislation in Corona Plaza.

“Folks are living here, taking the subway, going to stores, car[ing] about whether or not the streets are clean and how the schools are funded — those decisions are made by people who are elected to represent these communities and so the very people who live here must have the right to vote.”

Dromm is also a longtime supporter of the legislation.

“If you pay taxes, you should be able to vote,” he said in a statement days after the latest version of the bill was introduced. “No taxation without representation is a principle the US was founded on. It’s a basic civil right.”

Immigrant rights groups have been advocating for the bill for years. They hosted a rally in Corona Plaza in June, when Moya, who represents Corona, agreed to co-sponsor the bill effectively establishing a supermajority. A council supermajority prevents the mayor from vetoing the bill.

“As a lifelong advocate for immigrants and as a representative of one of the largest immigrant communities in the city, I know the incredible impact Intro 1867 will have for countless New Yorkers,” Moya said at the June rally. “I am proud to support this bill and thrilled that my co-sponsorship established a super-majority on a historic piece of legislation that will give a voice to nearly a million New Yorkers.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, said he does have reservations about the bill, although he is unable to stop it from becoming law if it passes by a supermajority.

He said he fears that the bill would reduce the incentive for immigrants to become citizens—should citizenship no longer be required to participate in local elections.

He also questioned its legal standing.

“I’m also concerned about the legal question, which is unclear whether it’s something that can be done on the local level,” he said Tuesday.

The council’s legal staff, according to the NYTimes, maintain that no federal or state law prevents the city from expanding voting rights to noncitizens in municipal elections.

The New York constitution does link voting rights to citizenship, but it does not expressly say that noncitizens cannot vote. However, the legislation could face court challenges, according to experts.

The legislation — upon becoming law — would have a significant impact on Queens, home to a large number of green card holders and authorized workers. About 12 percent of the population of Queens consists of green card holders and those with work visas, according to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.

Queens Community House, a nonprofit that serves 25,000 residents in 14 Queens neighborhoods, is a staunch supporter of the bill.

The organization said that many taxpayers in Queens have no say as to how their tax money is spent since they cannot vote due to their lack of citizenship.

“Many of our neighbors in Queens [are] unable to participate in [the voting] process because they do not yet have citizen status,” a representative for Queens Community House testified before the City Council in September. “They are here legally, and as such they pay taxes at the same rate as all of us. But they have no say in how their tax money is spent.”

The nonprofit said that the lack of voting rights isn’t just unfair to those excluded, but disadvantageous to all New Yorkers and “a misrepresentation of democracy.”

“If we truly embrace the principle of democracy, then we must recognize its value is not just for the individual but for the whole of society,” the Queens Community House representative said at the council hearing.

A DACA recipient and Corona resident Karina Johanna Buele is urging the council to pass the bill so she and people like her can have a greater say on the future of the city.

“I have lived in New York City since the age of nine, making it 25 years of ongoing contributions to the great city of New York, in which I have never gotten a say as to how, why, when, or who gets to decide on policies that have long affected me, also may have benefitted me, and/or impacted me,” Buele said during the hearing.

She said the legislation would not just benefit green card holders and other permanent legal residents but New York City as a whole.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of letting more New Yorkers participate in our democracy,” Buele said. “We should be leading the fight to expand voting rights and be a model for the rest of the country.”

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52 Comments

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Gardens Watcher

Taxation without representation? You’re really relying on that? If so, then should the thousands of tax-paying residents of Long Island and Westchester, who pay NYC taxes because they work in The City, be allowed to vote in NYC elections? Of course not! This reasoning is deeply flawed and this bill should be rejected.

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Tanya

We have better things to worry about like the omicron covid strain from Africa. My sister was right for moving..i didnt listen to her and now i fear being stuck in my small apartment. Please vote for politicians that promise more help. We will all need it.

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Hey Tayna?

Why haven’t you learned that politicians don’t car about you? You’re simply a political pawn.

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Becky

I am not losing any sleep over it. Pharmaceutical companies said that if needed they will have a booster shot ready within 100 days. We will all just get a booster for the new variant. America is back.

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Concerned Citizen

So whats the point for those whose families sacrificed literally everything to come here, and their children who sacrificed everything?
You are making theirs and all of our forefathers’ efforts worthless in the blink of an eye.

I welcome emigrants, but people who are participating in the system, and not just free-loading our taxes to re-elect these corrupt individuals who continue to erode the city into dust.

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Emre

They pay taxes. Moreover, they’re human beings who deserve to participate in the civic life of the city they live in.

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eddie

this is why i hate democrats, just follow the rule of law.
stop with the nice guy BS
focus on more important things like trying to get the crime rate back to a reasonable level idiots. and trying to reclaim the 850million that deblasios wife “lost” and cant find.

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Legal citizen of NYC

Taxation without representation…..was
taught in grade school. I’m glad it is finally being remembered

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Emilia

PERMANENT RESIDENT SHOULD BE ABLE TO VOTE AS THEY PAY TAXES, THEY SHOULD BE ABLE TO HAVE AN INPUT INTO OUR GOVERNING ACTS

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Jake

Honestly, how much worse could it get? Documented voters elected such winners as Cuomo, de blasio, and AOC . Undocumented people couldn’t do any worse if they had time to practice.

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Fay

And I’m stunned to find myself agreeing with Deblasio. And yes, only Americans should vote in American elections. It’s not about exclusion, it’s about acknowledging and preserving our political integrity.

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Laura

Only one perk remains to being an American….the right to hate America. The left enjoys this perk daily. It begs to question though… Once they remake America in their image will they still allow this? I bet not.

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Nicky

The gap between the poor and ultra- rich probably is growing and I’m sure the NY solution will be to tax those at the top even more. This will make it easier to tax the rich.

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ABoondy

foreigners dont pay any taxes. why do you think the foreigners come over here to buy multi-million dollar apartments under an LLC? feel free to read up on how foreign investors launder their money in New York real estate. between 2008 and 2014, roughly 30 percent of condos in big Manhattan developments were sold either to foreign investors or LLC shell companies (which are usually hiding some foreign investor).

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Alice

It will happen especially during covid because of all of the hand outs. There was a time where taking government handouts was looked down upon. No one but the most desperate would entertain the idea. Nowadays, taking government handouts is a sport. Especially in a city like NYC. Not only is it not looked down upon, in many communities your neighbors think you’re an idiot if you’re not indulging.

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Anonymous

Talking to a small business owner years ago he told of all the claims and monies you can tap into that were available. I told him some of them didn’t seem right and his answer ….. I’m entitled to them, if you don’t take advantage your stupid. He was right.

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There is stupid then there is Fox stupid

Anonymous- Did that business owner only pay $750 in federal taxes?

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mark

The proposal would only give legal residents the right to vote–so those who are undocumented would still not be able to. I’m on the fence about his one. On one hand, if someone is a legal resident then they are allowed live here, work here and get taxed. They are as invested in the community as anyone else. On the other hand, I have a hard time believing that there would be a reciprocal agreement for a U.S. citizen being able to vote in another country. I think there should also be a requirement that a legal (non-citizen) resident also spend at least 3/4th of their time in the U.S. to be eligible.

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It’s not stupid it’s Fox stupid

Caleb-The economy of the State of California is the largest in the United States, boasting a $3.0 trillion gross state product (GSP) as of 2020. If California were a sovereign nation (2020), it would rank as the world’s fifth largest economy, ahead of India and just behind Germany. Salaries in California are within the top 10 stars per capita in the nation. California is a thriving economic powerhouse. When you point out the failure of one party rule why did you overlook the worse performing states in the nation like Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina and Oklahoma? All worst performing in every statistical category known to man. Oh and all Republican. The power of Fox and the misinformation propaganda machine. Stop posting lies and misinformation. Do a little research.

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There is stupid andCNN super stupid

Please take your meds since Fox lives in your head
Texas and Florida thriving

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There is stupid than there is Fox Stupid

Texas and Florida are thriving…but nothing compared to California. California and New York produce twice as many millionaires and almost three times as many billionaires than Florida and Texas. Fact! According to Forbes and Crains if you want to get rich go to the north east and West coast. People bring their wealth to Florida, Florida is not a place that creates wealth they set themselves as a place to entice wealth from wealth centers.look it up.

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David

California has produced more billionaires than Texas and Florida combined. Look it up. The conservatives hate the fact liberals are better at wealth creation, a game conservatives claim is their own. Hence all the misinformation from conservative media outlets.

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doug

Democrats both in NYC, Albany and elsewhere in state are scheming up all sorts of effery to ensure large numbers of future voters.

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Bertha

Nope………………………..Should not work that way. An American citizen should only vote in America. Until then……………A non American citizen should mail in his vote to the country of which he is a citizen…………..

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Roberto

So what? I payed taxes for 7 years while in the military but I still couldn’t vote until I became a citizen- this self- entitlement narrative has to stop.

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JP

My mother as well as a few of my aunts and uncles came here LEGALLY and this crisis is a massive slap in the face to families like mine.

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Comfieslippers

…so true Ellen, just look at the gerrymandering the GOP is doing across the country to make sure the Orange Menace doesn’t lose the next election…

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Mike

Weird, I thought foreign influence in our elections was a no-no. These rule changes happen so fast…

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Kent

Once politicians figured out that they could get people hooked on welfare, they knew they had an endless supply of voters and won elections. This is just an extension of that thought process.

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Stop the Republican theocracy

Kent- Hooked on welfare? A tax bill on of $750 on hundreds of millions in income is the true welfare. It’s ignorance like yours that keeps me hitting the Democratic slot in the voting booth. I’ve never taken welfare but it’s nice to know there is still a social safety net.

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Jasmine

Hopefully this will help diversify elected officials and put an end to old white males trying to control our neighborhood with their racists agendas.

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Jim

Next ones to get the vote will be people who are here illegally. “Oh, they sacrificed their lives for us during the pandemic. That’s the least we can do for them.” Then next up will be people in Mexico who haven’t even come here yet! Just another trick to keep progressives in office. There are so many good people in our city. Stop these people already before they destroy this great place.

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Boo Boo

That sounds wrong to me. Just wrong. The 30-day residency makes me think this is a ploy by politicians to move their constituencies around and get them in power. Honest to God, NYC is not for those who were born here anymore. We are constantly being weakened, silenced and sidelined.

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ABoondy

curious why the federal government is so quiet on allowing this to happen. clearly this is a constitutional violation.

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Dodging the Robots

As usual, the NY Leftists are diving headfirst in the wrong direction, which will be off a cliff come the midterms in 2022. Enjoy your damaging 15 minutes now. All signs point to a lengthy fallow period approaching for NY and a precipitous fall into even more complete irrelevance than exists now. Look across the country at where the biggest problems are: NY once again tries to outdo California in terms of who can play the stupid card most effectively.

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LIC Direct

Bad, bad move. Voting is a privilege of a US citizen. I can’t vote in Mexico, China or the DR if I lived there, I can’t vote in NJ because I live in NYC why should someone a non citizen of our country who prefers to not become a US citizen have the same privilege as a US citizen? Its the holy grail of American democracy and you want to give a non citizen the ability to vote? This is a power grab by minority left leaning council members, just remember immigrants are not as left leaning as you believe and they will be the first ones to vote your asses out of office. Just look what happened to Jimmy Van Bramer persona non grata in his community never to hold public office again due to his flip flopping politics. Ti Johanna Buele, go to your consulate and vote for the representative of the country in which you were born.

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Georgia

Conservative and moderate views tend to go out the window when somebody is offering you food stamps and free healthcare.

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Goodby jimmy you know who

This is disconcerting and a very erosion of the meaning of citizenship by progressives who support open borders
This must be challenged in court

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