New mayor of New York City Eric Adams allowed legislation approved by the City Council to automatically become law that now noncitizens and “Dreamers” in the city will have access to voting in local elections as soon as next year. The legislation applies to more than 800,000 noncitizens in the city.
Over a dozen communities across the nation already allow noncitizens to vote in their local elections, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont.
Despite the new law, though, noncitizens still would not be eligible to vote for president or members of Congress in federal elections, or in the state races that decide the governor, judges, and legislators.
But the measure’s passing is being called a “watershed moment” as those noncitizens who have been lawful permanent residents of the city for at least 30 days, as well as those permitted to work in the U.S., will now be allowed to vote for the city’s mayor, its council members, borough presidents, comptroller, and public advocate.
In New York City, legally documented, voting-age noncitizens account for nearly one in nine of the city’s 7 million voting-age residents. Unless a judge stops its implementation, as opponents have vowed to challenge it, New York City is the first major U.S. city to grant broad municipal voting rights to noncitizens.
Adams said that he too had concerns over the law, but he had productive dialogue with colleagues that put those to rest. “I believe that new Yorkers should have a say in their government, which is why I have and will continue to support this important legislation,” the new mayor said in a statement released on Saturday night.
Opponents have said that the council does not have the authority by itself to grant voting rights in such a sweeping measure, and instead it should have sought action by state lawmakers first.
States like Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida have rules in place that preempt any attempts to pass laws like that in New York City.