A new city law that would grant voting rights in local elections to certain legal immigrant New York City residents is picking up a new burst of momentum, as terms for the current City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio come to end. A long-awaited vote on the measure is scheduled for next month.
“This whole city is built on immigrants,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, the Brooklyn Borough president-elect, who was among the bill’s supporters rallying outside City Hall on Tuesday. “It’s about time we get to show these representatives what we want, what we need and what we deserve at the voting booth.”
The bill, Intro 1867, would allow approximately 900,000 noncitizen legal permanent residents to register to vote for their local representatives, including Mayor, City Council, Public Advocate, City Comptroller, and Borough President. The measure is currently scheduled for a vote in the council on December 9th.
While the bill has long had enough support within the Council to pass, it recently picked up a 34-member supermajority, which is also enough to override a potential mayoral veto. Still, the legislation faces serious hurdles before it can be implemented.
One of those hurdles is Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has previously said he does not think the bill is legal. The mayor softened his stance on Tuesday when asked about it at his daily briefing. He stressed that he wants people to pursue citizenship, “every chance they get” and while he still questioned whether this is something that can be enacted at the local level, he said he would not veto the bill if it passed the Council next week.
“It’s a democracy,” de Blasio said. “[It’s] certainly not something I would be intending to veto, but it’s also something I’m not sure is the right way to go about this,” he added.
If the legislation does pass the Council, as expected, de Blasio could sign the bill before he leaves office or, after 30 days, it would automatically be adopted into law.
However, that 30-day window extends into the next administration, which means incoming mayor Eric Adams could decide to veto it within the first few days of his administration, or he could, “schedule a hearing, a predicate for actually signing the bill in the first days of his administration,” said City Law Department spokesman Nicholas Pauolucci.
Adams has said he supports expanding voting rights to legal noncitizen New Yorkers, and is a close ally of one of bill’s most active and vocal proponents, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. But Adams’ most recent public comments on the bill during the last general election debate echoed concerns raised by de Blasio — that is, whether the city could enact this change to election law at the local level without state approval.
“I think it is so important to have those documented, green card [holders] should have the right to participate in local elections. My understanding is that the Law Department states that the state must carry that out,” Adams said when asked about the bill during the October 26th debate.
“That’s not going to be the power among the City Council or our city. So hopefully the state lawmakers will look at that and make a determination of what’s the best thing for the city,” he added.
When asked about the mayor-elect’s current position, spokesman Evan Thies pointed to earlier comments Adams made in support of the legislation.
Even if the bill were to take effect, it’s unclear whether the New York City Board of Elections would change its procedures to implement it — unless ordered to do so by the state or the courts. In 2017, de Blasio signed legislation that allowed for an online voter registration system here in New York City, but the city BOE refused to enact the law without a directive by the state.
Supporters of the voting rights bill said they are ready to keep up their fight until thousands of tax-paying, noncitizen New Yorkers are given a voice in choosing local elected officials.
Murad Awawdeh, head of the New York Immigration Coalition, said New York has an opportunity to lead the nation as the largest big city to extend voting rights to legal immigrant New Yorkers, and he’s optimistic that Adams will follow through on his support for the bill.
“We look forward to having this program implemented under his administration,” said Awawdeh.
(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)