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Legal Noncitizens Can Now Vote in City Elections, Mayor Adams Decides Not to Block Council Bill

Noncitizens now have the right to vote in local elections. Pictured are voters casting their ballots in South Ozone Park in 2020. (Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)

Jan. 10, 2022 By Michael Dorgan

Green card holders and residents who are authorized to work now have the right to vote in local elections.

Mayor Eric Adams, who had expressed concerns about a bill passed by the council last month permitting certain noncitizens the right to vote, decided not to challenge the legislation. The bill has now become law.

The new law gives approximately 800,000 non-citizen New Yorkers the ability to partake in municipal elections.

Under the legislation, legal residents now have the right to vote in city elections, such as for mayor, public advocate, comptroller and their local council member. They are unable to vote in state and federal elections.

The new law makes New York City the largest municipality in the country permitting noncitizens the right to vote in local elections.

Adams had the right to veto the bill until Sunday, which would have kicked it back to the new city council. The previous council passed the bill by 33 votes to 14 last month, one vote short of overriding the mayor’s power to veto the bill.

The mayor gave the bill, titled “Our City, Our Vote”, his backing on Saturday—saying it would bring more people into the democratic process.

“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,” Adams said.

Adams said that he initially had misgivings about a stipulation in the bill that only requires noncitizens to live in the city for 30 days prior to a local election. He indicated that the 30-day requirement was too short.

However, in his statement Saturday, he said that he had conversations with other government officials that put these concerns “at ease.”

He did not specify the nature of those discussions.

Noncitizens now have the right to vote in local elections. Mayor Eric Adams, pictured, let a recently passed city council bill become law Sunday (Photo by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

The first citywide election that qualifying noncitizens will be permitted to vote is likely to be in 2023. The law, however, is expected to face legal challenges.

For instance, Albany Law School Professor Vincent Bonventre told the New York Post last month that the bill may violate Article 2, Section 1, of the state constitution, which grants the right to vote in all elections to “every citizen” 18 years of age or older.

“The implications seems pretty clear that the right to vote is exclusive to citizens,” Bonventre said. “They are the only ones mentioned and nothing else suggests the right to vote may be extended to others.”

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