New York City has moved to become the largest jurisdiction in the United States to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.
On Thursday, city legislators passed a measure to allow about 800,000 “green card” holders (permanent US residents) and so-called “dreamers” (children granted temporary US residency after being brought to the country undocumented as children) to vote in municipal elections.
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While Mayor Bill de Blasio has questioned the legislation, he has said he will not veto it. City legislators also appear to have the support to override a veto. The law could still potentially face legal challenges.
Councilman Francisco Moya, whose family immigrated to the US from Ecuador, choked up as he spoke in support of the bill.
“This is for my beautiful mother who will be able to vote for her son,” said Moya, who joined the session by video with his mother at his side.
#Breaking: The New York City Council becomes the largest city in the nation to enfranchise non-citizen immigrant New Yorkers.
— Ydanis Rodriguez (@ydanis) December 9, 2021
The legislation gives city residents the ability to have more control in the local decisions that directly affect their lives, advocates say. More than a dozen communities across the US currently allow non-citizens to cast ballots in local elections, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont.
Meanwhile, Alabama, Colorado and Florida last year adopted rules that prevent any attempts to pass similar legislation in cities in their states.
Non-citizens in New York City still will not 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.
At a time when misinformation about fraud in US elections has been rampant, some have voiced concern the move could add fuel to that fire.
“The bill we’re doing today will have national repercussions,” said the council’s majority leader, Laurie Cumbo, a Democrat who opposed the measure.
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, in a tweet on Friday, called the move “unacceptable” and said the organisation is looking at “legal options”.
“American citizens should decide American elections – full stop,” she wrote.
The legislation directs the Board of Elections to draw up an implementation plan by July, including voter registration rules and provisions that would create separate ballots for municipal races to prevent non-citizens from casting ballots in federal and state contests.
Non-citizens would not be allowed to vote until elections in 2023.