The Corner

Politics & Policy

Will New York City Give Non-Citizens the Right to Vote?

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s approval ratings have slipped below 50 percent, making it possible he could face a serious primary challenge in 2017. But New York’s pro–de Blasio city council may have found a way to stop that cold: A majority of the council supports giving more than 1 million non-citizens full rights to vote in local elections. That’s one in five adult New Yorkers.

Mayor de Blasio’s approval ratings are much higher among minorities than with whites, who oppose him by a two-to-one margin. Giving non-citizens — most of whom are minorities — the vote could cement far-left dominance of New York City’s government into place.

Legislation by Democratic Queens councilman David Dromm is being prepared for possible debate this spring. It would permit any non-citizen who has legal residency papers to vote for mayor, city council, and other offices. Dromm says that non-citizens pay taxes, contribute to the economy, and often have roots in the community. But he says their needs are often ignored by local officials.

Opponents of the measure say the right to vote is a privilege and shouldn’t be diluted. Eric Ulrich, a Republican city councilman from Queens, told Newsday: “It should only be for United States citizens. It’s also a reason for people who are on a path to citizenship to aspire to citizenship. It’s something for them to look forward to.”

Mayor de Blasio says he is open to a debate about having non-citizens vote but hasn’t explicitly endorsed the measure. But last year he issued municipal ID cards to some 500,000 undocumented immigrants in the city, and no one believes he would veto a bill the city council sent him on non-citizen voting. In 2013, 31 out of 51 city council measures backed the idea but it was opposed by then-mayor Michael Bloomberg and then-city-council-speaker Christine Quinn blocked it from coming to a vote.

The idea of non-citizen voting is an old one, but currently only six communities in Maryland allow it for local elections. Chicago gives voting rights to non-citizens in school-board elections.

But clearly liberals would like to expand non-citizen voting. Kevin Douglas, co-director of policy for New York City’s United Neighborhood Houses, told the liberal blog ThinkProgress “the interests of the citizen body and the legal resident body are essentially the same when they’re living in the same community.” Liberals are already bitter opponents of laws in Arizona and Kansas that require voters to confirm under penalty of perjury they are citizens when they register. One reason for those laws is that there is evidence non-citizens can already choose to vote without much fear of detection.

A study last year by two Old Dominion University professors, based on survey data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, indicated that 6.4 percent of all non-citizens voted illegally in the 2008 presidential election, and 2.2 percent did in the 2010 midterms. Given that 80 percent of non-citizens lean Democratic, they cite Al Franken ’s 312-vote win in the 2008 Minnesota U.S. Senate race as one likely tipped by non-citizen voting. That election also had profound consequences. As a senator, Franken cast the 60th vote needed to make Obamacare law.

Supporters of non-citizen voting believe that if they can impose the idea in “the global hub” of New York City, it will catch on elsewhere.

“As New York City goes, so goes the rest of the world,” Councilman Dromm told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

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