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NYC noncitizen voting legislation: Democrats largely ignore measure

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New York Democrats have largely ignored the New York City council’s recent approval of legislation that would give an estimated 800,000 citizens the right to vote in local elections.

New York Democratic lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Yvette Clarke, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. Gregory Meeks, Rep. Kathleen Rice, and Rep. Thomas Suozzi did not immediately respond to requests from Fox News for their responses to the measure.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also did not respond to requests for comment on the legislation from Fox News.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks as Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., listens during a press conference in the Corona neighborhood of Queens on April 14, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

The city council approved the legislation last Thursday, giving noncitizens who have lived in the city for at least a month — mostly green card holders and others with work authorization — the right to vote in municipal elections. That right would extend to any primary, special, general or run-off election for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president or council member, as well as local ballot initiatives. 

Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who represents a district that covers parts of eastern Brooklyn and southwestern Queens in Congress, expressed support Tuesday for the bill telling reporters, “The legislation that passed the city council would permit legal permanent residents to be able to vote in municipal elections. And the law permits a city to make that determination. We, of course, exist in a system of federalism. New York City has made that determination. It’s a determination that I fully support.”

Democratic New York Rep. Jamaal Brown, who represents Yonkers, called it a “huge victory” in a Friday tweet.

“Yesterday, the immigrant community in NYC had a huge victory,” he wrote. “Over 800,000 legal residents now have the right to vote in municipal elections. Hopefully this will motivate other towns and cities to implement similar legislation. Immigrants must have their voices heard.”

The author of the bill, New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, said in a Dec. 9 statement that the bill will “ensure that there is adequate representation for all New Yorkers.”

Absentee ballots sit in a ballot box during early voting in the primary election, Monday, June 14, 2021, at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in the Soho neighborhood of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Absentee ballots sit in a ballot box during early voting in the primary election, Monday, June 14, 2021, at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua in the Soho neighborhood of New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

“That starts by expanding the scope of who is allowed to vote in our local elections,” he said. ”Immigrants in New York City own over half of the local businesses and contribute over $190 billion dollars to the citywide GDP.”

New York City-based noncitizens will be eligible to register to vote by December 2022 and cast ballots by January 2023. Undocumented immigrants will not be allowed to vote, as is the case for all noncitizen voting legislation that exists in the U.S. today.

The legislation now goes to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s desk. 

In a recent interview with “Fox News Sunday,” de Blasio admitted that he is not 100% behind the concept of allowing noncitizens to vote, but did not specify whether he plans to sign or veto the bill.

“I have mixed feelings. I’ve been very open about this law, and I think there are big legal questions, but I also respect the City Council. They made a decision,” the mayor said. 

New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio makes declarations at a mass vaccination site at Yankee Stadium. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio makes declarations at a mass vaccination site at Yankee Stadium. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Critics of the measure have expressed concerns that the legislation is unconstitutional, and that passing such a bill could incentivize the passage of future unconstitutional legislation.

As Democratic New York City Council Member Kalman Yeger of Brooklyn told Fox News in a Saturday statement, “The New York State Constitution limits voting to ‘citizens,’ as does New York State Election Law.”

“The City Council has no legal authority to provide something greater than state law or the state Constitution,” the councilman said. “The most unfortunate part about this whole mess is that the sponsors of this legislation know this, and they don’t care, because they legislate for the press release, and they’ll be gone from the Council in three weeks, well before the courts strike this down.”

The first article of New York State’s Bill of Rights states that “every citizen shall be entitled to vote at every election for all officers elected by the people … provided that such citizen is [18] years of age or over and shall have been a resident of this state, and of the county, city, or village for [30] days next preceding an election.”

Voters sign in at Frank McCourt High School for New York's party primaries, June 22, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Voters sign in at Frank McCourt High School for New York’s party primaries, June 22, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

The New York City measure will allow noncitizens who have been lawful permanent residents of the city for at least 30 days, as well as those authorized to work in the U.S., including so-called “Dreamers,” to help select the city’s mayor, city council members, borough presidents, comptroller and public advocate.

Republican New York state Rep. Nicole Malliotakis called the legislation “careless” in a Dec. 9 statement.

“There is nothing more important than preserving the integrity of our election system,” Malliotakis, who represents Staten Island, said. “The government should be working to create more trust in our elections, not less. The right to vote is a sacred right given only to United States citizens. This careless legislation dilutes the voices of American citizens and is not in line with the views of the vast majority of our city. My local colleagues and I pledge to take the city to court and challenge this legislation.”

Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.

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