The City Council has approved a landmark bill that allows noncitizen residents to vote in local elections, like those for mayor and other city offices.
“Immigrants pay taxes, they use city services, their kids go to our public schools. They are part of our community. And they deserve a say in local government," said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.
The bill, which has long been a priority of immigrant rights groups, applies to permanent residents known as green card holders and those with work authorizations, a group that comprises an estimated 800,000 New Yorkers.
It allows them to vote in municipal elections beginning in 2023, when all 51 Council seats will be up for grabs. It does not apply to state or federal elections.
The bill does not apply to undocumented immigrants.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez of upper Manhattan, framed the vote as a historic moment.
“My hope is that 50 years down the line, when our children look back, they will see a diverse coalition of fighters who came together to change New York City history by giving immigrant New Yorkers the power of the ballot," he said."
The vote passed by a 33-14 margin, with two Council members abstaining. It was opposed largely by Republicans and moderate Democrats. Many of them objected to the provision that noncitizens need reside in the city only 30 days before becoming eligible to vote.
“What this bill is going to allow a year from now is someone with a work visa to come in, and 30 days later be able to vote," said Councilman Mark Gjonaj of the Bronx. "That person is a transient, not a permanent resident, not a contributor to society and the fabric of New York City.”
A motion to send the bill back for further revision was defeated, with the bill’s supporters noting that the process would extend past Dec. 31, when council members’ current terms expire.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he will not veto the bill, despite his reservations that the move will dilute the value of U.S. citizenship.
Opponents have said the move is unconstitutional and have vowed legal action.