Posted on November 9, 2017
Why Don’t We Let Noncitizen Residents Vote?
— Felipe De La Hoz ? (@FelipeDLH) November 7, 2017
Hopes of a post-Trump voter engagement bump in the September primaries were dashed as 14 percent of registered Democrats turned out for the only contested mayoral primary, the lowest percentage since 2009. New York City has the largest foreign-born population of any city in the nation by far; of these, about 1.5 million were noncitizens as of 2011, nearly the size of the entire population of Philadelphia. As New York faces a choice for mayor featuring two candidates who voted for Donald Trump, one of whom sued to preserve a municipal ID database that activists worry could be a tool for deportation, noncitizen immigrants are left to push and organize but not, ultimately, to decide. New York City was the first municipality to extend some voting rights to all residents, in elections for the school board system it created in 1969. “It was one of the thrusts of the Civil Rights–era movement for greater community control,” explains Ron Hayduk, a researcher who worked on the campaign for noncitizen voting as a CUNY professor before moving to San Francisco. “It allowed any parent of a kid [in city public schools], regardless of status, to vote.” The modern campaign to bring noncitizen voting to New York City began in earnest after the end of the school boards with the formation of the New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights —abbreviated as iVote— a loose group of several community groups and activists, including the New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road New York, MinKwon Center for Community Action, and the Black Institute. “Noncitizen voting is actually a restoration of rights. Noncitizens have been voting in this country longer than they haven’t,” says Brooklyn council member Jumaane Williams, a supporter and sponsor of the 2010 bill, who is also running for the speakership of the City Council. If a noncitizen voting bill did pass, it would require some delicate and potentially costly changes to the city’s election system.