Unless a judge blocks the bill, New York will be the first US city to enfranchise non-citizens
Incoming New York Mayor Eric Adams has allowed a bill giving the vote to non-citizens to become law automatically. That’s after the City Council passed it last month.
Non-citizen New Yorkers who have lived in the city for at least a month may legally vote in city elections as of next year, according to a bill which became law through the mayor’s inaction on Sunday. Adams, while expressing reservations with certain aspects of the bill, did not choose to veto or otherwise challenge it, allowing the City Council’s passage of the legislation to stand after what he called “productive dialogue” with others in city government.
While there are more than a dozen communities in the US that allow non-citizens to vote, New York – with more than 800,000 non-citizens calling the city (at least a temporary) home – is by far the most populous to pass such a measure. Eleven towns in Maryland and two in Vermont have done the same, but their populations amount to only a fraction of the country’s largest urban area.
Legally-documented voting-age non-citizens reportedly make up one in nine of New York’s 7 million adult residents. If the new law goes unchallenged, non-citizens who have been lawful permanent residents of New York for at least 30 days, as well as those with US work authorization and ‘Dreamers’, will be allowed to vote in elections for the city’s mayor, borough presidents, comptroller, public advocate, and city council members. They will not be allowed to vote in national or state elections.
The Board of Elections is responsible for deciding how the division will work, and must create a functional voter registration system that will prevent non-citizen voters from also casting ballots in national and state elections. Given the Board’s troubled history with simpler issues like sending the proper ballots to city residents during the 2020 elections, some missteps are likely, but an implementation plan must be submitted by July in order for non-citizens to vote in the 2023 city elections.
Adams, who was inaugurated as mayor as part of the city’s New Year’s celebration, initially expressed concern with the 30-day residency requirement, but rather than challenging the bill, he allowed the month-long period in which he would have been able to halt its passage to expire without incident.
While a legal challenge is said to be likely, it’s unclear whether it would have enough support in the heavily Democratic city to overwhelm support for the measure.
Other states, including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida, have preemptively passed measures to prevent similar laws from being passed in their own cities.