A proposal expected to be introduced this year in the New York City Council could see elections open up to voting by legal noncitizen residents and undocumented immigrants in 2017, the New York Post reported. The proposal, recently discussed at a Black and Latino Legislative Caucus event Albany, New York, could potentially give voting rights to over a million noncitizens in New York City’s upcoming mayoral and City Council elections.
As the most populous city in the U.S. at over 8 million residents, New York City recently became a leader in expanding immigrant rights by extending municipal IDs to more than 730,000 residents regardless of immigration status. Advocates have said the measure is being proposed in the spirit of fighting voter suppression in underrepresented communities.
“We want to expand the right to vote for everybody, not suppress the vote. What a radical idea,” Bertha Lewis, head of the Black Institute that advocates for Caribbean and African immigrants, told the Post. Lewis, whose group is part of a coalition of immigrant rights groups backing the proposal, said she expected the legislation to be introduced this spring.
New York City is home to an estimated 1.3 million noncitizen residents, the Post reported. About 500,000 noncitizens are considered undocumented. Currently, neither green card holders nor those living in the country illegally are allowed in vote in municipal, state or federal elections.
Several years ago, a council member from the New York City borough of Queens proposed extend voting rights to “lawful residents.” Despite backing from Melissa Mark-Viverito, the current council speaker, it was never put up for a vote.
It would have a lot of support from the current City Council, said Brooklyn Council member Jumaane Williams. “We want people to participate in civic life and be invested in what happens. It will lead to a healthier community,” said Williams, who has endorsed the proposal.
Mike Long, the New York state Conservative Party chairman, blasted the proposal as a move by liberal Democrats to boost their support. “This is outrageous. ... American citizens have the right to determine the destiny of towns, villages, cities, states and the country,” Long said.