A controversial new law – supported by the city’s new mayor Eric Adams – has gone into effect that will allow over 800,000 noncitizens to vote in New York City elections.
Vocal opponents of the legislation have vowed to challenge the law, which the City Council approved a month ago. Unless a judge halts its implementation, New York City will be the first major U.S. city to grant widespread municipal voting rights to noncitizens.
More than a dozen communities across the US already allow noncitizens to cast ballots in local elections, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont.
Noncitizens still wouldn’t be able to vote for president or members of Congress in federal races or in the state elections that pick the governor, judges, and legislators.
However, opponents see this and similar legislation across the country as the first step to a slippery slope that will lead to granting the right to vote to illegals and noncitizens in federal elections ahead of the 2024 presidential race.
In NYC, the Board of Elections must now begin drawing an implementation plan by July, including voter registration rules and provisions that would create separate ballots for municipal races to prevent noncitizens from casting ballots in federal and state contests.
The AP is referring to the new law as 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 7 million voting-age inhabitants. The movement to win voting rights for noncitizens prevailed after numerous setbacks.
The measure would allow noncitizens who have been lawful permanent residents of the city for at least 30 days, as well as those authorized to work in the US, including “Dreamers,” to help select the city’s mayor, city council members, borough presidents, comptroller and public advocate.
“Dreamers” are young immigrants brought to the US illegally as children who would benefit from the never-passed DREAM Act or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows them to remain in the country if they meet certain criteria.
The first elections in which noncitizens would be allowed to vote are in 2023.
“We build a stronger democracy when we include the voices of immigrants,” said former City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who led the charge to win approval for the legislation.
Rodriguez, who Adams appointed as his transportation commissioner, thanked the mayor for his support and expects a vigorous defense against any legal challenges.
Adams recently cast uncertainty over the legislation when he raised concern about the monthlong residency standard but later said those concerns did not mean he would veto the bill.
While there was some question whether Adams could stop the bill from becoming law, the 30-day time limit for the mayor to take action expired at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 9.
Adams said he looked forward to the law bringing millions more into the democratic process.