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NYC Council OKs measure that would allow legal noncitizens to vote in local elections

New York City Councilor Ydanis Rodriguez speaks during a rally Thursday on the steps of City Hall ahead of a council vote to allow lawful permanent residents to cast votes in elections to pick the mayor, city councilors and other municipal officeholders.
Mary Altaffer
/
AP
New York City Councilor Ydanis Rodriguez speaks during a rally Thursday on the steps of City Hall ahead of a council vote to allow lawful permanent residents to cast votes in elections to pick the mayor, city councilors and other municipal officeholders.

Updated December 9, 2021 at 7:23 PM ET

The New York City Council on Thursday approved legislation that would expand voting rights to hundreds of thousands of legal noncitizens, allowing a once-disenfranchised segment of Big Apple taxpayers a chance to participate in the local democratic process.

The measure was easily approved by the City Council with the support of a number of advocacy groups, who say that New York's legal permanent residents have the right to weigh in on who leads the city and how their tax dollars are spent.

If the bill is enacted and if it survives legal challenges, New York City would become the largest jurisdiction in the United States to allow noncitizen voting.

Noncitizens would remain barred from voting in state and federal elections.

New York is home to a massive immigrant population. Voting-aged, legal permanent residents account for some 900,000 of the city's 7 million adult residents. The legislation would open the door for hundreds of thousands of those residents to vote in local elections, including the nationally significant mayoral race.

The voting rights bill applies to noncitizen residents who've resided in the city for at least 30 days, including green card holders, DACA holders and those who are legally authorized to work in the country.

The decision moved forward without the help or support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has questioned the legality of the measure, but nonetheless said he would not veto the council's decision.

Despite its relatively easy coast to council victory in the Democratic stronghold, the legislation will likely face legal challenges, including from Republicans, who have spearheaded efforts across the country to enact new voter restrictions.

"American citizens should decide American elections — full stop. Today's decision in New York is the product of a radical, power-hungry Democrat Party that will stop at nothing to undermine election integrity," Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a statement, adding that the RNC is reviewing legal options.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Alana Wise is a politics reporter on the Washington desk at NPR.
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