In a vote of 33 to 14, the Democrat-controlled city council passed the measure known as “Our City, Our Vote.”
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, the prime sponsor of the legislation and an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, told CNN it’s about championing the issue of “no taxation without representation.”
“But the constitution of New York State and the New York City Charter is a live document that provides the opportunity for us to always look to make it better. I think that today we were able to make that important change that recognizes the contributions of immigrants,” Rodriguez told CNN after the vote, adding that his own background as a green card holder from 1983 to 2000 inspired his push for passage of the measure.
Before the vote, some members argued that it should be delayed, citing legal concerns about whether the city could make such a change. That motion, however, was defeated and the council moved forward on the measure.
Other council members brought up concerns regarding the impact the new bill would have on Black voters.
“Where do African American voters fit in,” said Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, a Democrat, ahead of the vote. “This particular legislation is going to shift the power dynamics in New York City in a major way and we do not have the numbers or the information to know how that is going to impact African American communities who have been the most vulnerable in their existence in New York.”
Cumbo said that the bill would be a “win for the Dominican Republican” and voiced concern that Latino voters could vote “Republican” once given the right to vote.
A handful of jurisdictions in the US allow noncitizens to vote, including nine Maryland cities, San Francisco and two Vermont towns — Winooski and Montpelier.
New York City has nearly 800,000 noncitizens, according to Rodriguez’s office. Advocates of the bill say its about allowing everyone to participate in the democratic process.
“This is set to be a transformative piece of legislation that will really ensure that all New Yorkers — noncitizen New Yorkers who live here, who are raising children here, who shop in our stores, who own small businesses — have the opportunity to have a say, in our democracy. We think that we all will be better off when people who are invested in this city are able to participate in our democracy,” Anu Joshi, vice president of policy at New York Immigrant Coalition, told CNN.
The legislation is set to go into effect January 2023.
Critics of the bill, including Mayor Bill de Blasio, say the legislation could potentially discourage legal permanent residents from becoming citizens.
Others have argued that voting is a right that should be extended only once a person becomes a citizen.
The Republican National Committee attributed the measure to a “power-hungry Democrat Party.”
“American citizens should decide American elections — full stop,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement after the vote. “Allowing our elections to be decided by foreign citizens is unacceptable, and the RNC is looking closely at our legal options as we continue our fight to protect your ballot.”
This story has been updated with comment from the RNC.