More than 800,000 non-citizens and “Dreamers” residing in New York City will have access to the polls – and could participate in municipal elections starting next year – after Mayor Eric Adams allowed an initiative to automatically become in law on Sunday.
Critics have vowed to challenge the new law, which the City Council approved a month ago. Unless a judge stops its implementation, New York City is the first major city in the nation to grant extended municipal voting rights to non-citizen US residents.
More than a dozen communities across the United States allow noncitizen residents to cast ballots in local elections, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont.
Non-citizen residents will still not be able to vote for president or members of Congress in federal contests, or participate in state elections that elect governor, judges and legislators.
The Board of Elections must now map out a plan to implement by July, including voter registration rules and provisions that would create separate ballots for municipal races to prevent non-citizens from casting ballots in federal and state races.
It’s a pivotal moment for the nation’s most populous city, where non-citizen residents with legal documents and voting age make up about one in nine of the nearly seven million voting-age residents. The movement to gain voting rights for non-citizen residents prevailed after several setbacks.
The measure would allow non-citizens who have been lawful permanent residents of the city for at least 30 days, as well as those legally authorized to work in the United States, including Dreamers, to help elect the city’s mayor, city council members, district presidents, auditors and public defenders.