After Mayor Eric Adams permitted legislation to automatically become law on Sunday, more than 800,000 noncitizens and “Dreamers” in New York City will have access to the ballot box – and might vote in municipal elections as early as next year. Opponents have promised to sue over the new law, which was approved by the City Council a month ago. New York Metropolis will become the first major U.S. city to provide sweeping municipal voting rights to noncitizens unless a judge intervenes.
Noncitizens can already vote in local elections in more than a dozen places in the United States, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont. Noncitizens would still be unable to vote in federal elections for president or members of Congress, as well as in state elections for governors, judges, and legislators.
The Board of Elections now has until July to draught an implementation plan, which must include voter registration procedures and provisions that would create separate votes for municipal elections to prevent non-citizens from voting in federal and state elections.
It’s a turning point for the nation’s most populous metropolis, where legally documented noncitizens account for about one-fifth of the city’s 7 million voting-age residents. After repeated setbacks, the noncitizen voting rights movement triumphed. Noncitizens who have lived in the city for at least 30 days, as well as those authorised to work in the United States, such as “Dreamers,” would be able to vote for the mayor, city council members, borough presidents, comptroller, and public advocate.
“Dreamers” are young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children and would qualify for the DREAM Act or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, which permits them to stay in the country if they meet specific conditions.
Noncitizens will be able to vote in 2023.
The first elections will be held in 2023, and non-citizens will be eligible to vote. Former City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who spearheaded the legislation’s passage, remarked, “We develop a stronger democracy when we include the voices of immigrants.” Rodriguez, who was selected by Adams as his transportation commissioner, thanked Adams for his support and said he expected a strong legal defence if he is sued.
Adams recently put doubt on the law when he expressed reservations about the month-long residency requirement, but later clarified that his reservations did not indicate he would veto the bill. While it was unclear whether Adams would be able to prevent the bill from becoming law, the mayor’s 30-day deadline for action passed at midnight.
Former Mayor Bill de Blasio had similar reservations but did not attempt to veto the bill before leaving office at the end of the year. Opponents argue that the council does not have the jurisdiction to provide noncitizens voting rights on its own and that the state legislature should have been consulted first. Some states, such as Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida, have passed measures that would prevent regulations like the one in New York City from becoming law.