Aliens voting rights in the U.S.A.
Debate around noncitizens voting rights in New York
see also: Immigrant voting rights in New York City and State on the website of the Immigrant Voting Project
Panel: Let Noncitizens Vote
Says move would encourage more participation in government
By Mae M. Cheng
Newsday August 23, 2003
The 11-member city Charter Revision Commission is set to recommend next week that the state grant U.S. permanent residents the right to vote in municipal elections, officials said Friday.
A resolution in favor of allowing noncitizens to vote will be put forth to allow for increased participation in local government, said Paul Elliott, a spokesman for the commission, a panel appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to study nonpartisan elections in the city.
"The commission thinks indeed that voting by noncitizens would go to the heart of the objectives of the commission, which is to increase access and participation with local government across the board for all New Yorkers," Elliott said.
City officials explained Friday that it may take state legislative action to permit noncitizens to vote. But some also pointed out that precedent for noncitizen voting had been set when parents with children living in the city were permitted to vote in community school board elections.
"If we can send young people off to war to be killed in Iraq and bestow citizenship on them after they die, why can't we allow them to vote in a city which they have gone off to defend and where they pay taxes?" asked William Lynch, a Democratic political consultant and a commission member.
There are about 3.7 million registered voters in New York City. The 2000 census shows that there are about 1.6 million city residents who are foreign-born and who are not American citizens. While there are no official estimates on the impact of noncitizen voting, proponents of the idea said that such a proposal might benefit about 1 million city residents.
Elliott said the commission hopes to get Bloomberg's and the City Council's support for the proposal.
Mayoral spokeswoman Lark-Marie Anton said she has not heard Bloomberg express an opinion on the idea.
"It's an interesting proposal with significant, if not overwhelming obstacles," said Thomas McMahon, general counsel to the City Council, who added that the idea may take an amendment to the state Constitution to be implemented.
Todd Alhart, a spokesman for Gov. George Pataki, said, "It's something we'll have to review."
In the country's early years, noncitizens were allowed to vote. The practice continued in many states until 1928, the first time noncitizens were forbidden from voting for any national, state or local candidate. Since then, various municipalities have revisited the issue, including Takoma Park, Md., which has granted noncitizens voting rights in city elections.
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.
New York Times April 10, 2004
New York: Bloomberg Voices His Opposition to Voting by Noncitizens
By WINNIE HU
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday that he opposed giving legal immigrants who are not United States citizens the right to vote in New York City elections, putting him at odds with many immigrant groups and others that have been pushing for such a change.
Mayor Bloomberg, who had declined earlier this week to express an opinion on the issue, discussed it at length yesterday on his weekly radio program on WABC-AM.
The mayor said that while he sympathized with the plight of immigrants, particularly those who pay taxes, he still believed that "the essence of citizenship is the right to vote, and you should go about becoming a citizen before you get the right to vote."
"There's been an awful lot of people over the years that have fought and died for the right to vote - for giving you and I the right to vote - and I don't think that we should walk away from that concept," the mayor said. "If you want to have full rights, and voting is a very big part of full rights, become a citizen."
The mayor's stance clashes with that of a number of elected officials, labor unions and community groups who have quietly pushed for extending voting rights to legal immigrants. It may also hurt the mayor, who faces re-election in 2005, with Latino and Asian voters, with whom he has tried to make inroads.
In recent years, immigrants and their advocates have mounted campaigns in other cities for voting rights, including Washington, where Mayor Anthony Williams has said that he supports letting legal immigrants vote in District of Columbia elections. Several towns in Maryland have also let noncitizens vote in local elections.
In New York City, these advocates point out, there is already a historical precedent for immigrant voting. Until the city moved to abolish its school boards two years ago, all residents had the right to vote for members of these boards and to serve on them. But a proposal to open city elections to immigrants was floated a decade ago and failed.
The City Council speaker, Gifford Miller, a Democrat who is expected to challenge the mayor next year, said through a spokesman that he was still studying the legal issues but signaled that he was leaning toward supporting the current law as it is. "The speaker believes that encouraging citizenship is the best way to increase participation in the voting process," said David K. Chai, Mr. Miller's press secretary.
But several City Council members, led by Bill Perkins and John C. Liu, said that they were forging ahead and drafting legislation that they hoped to introduce in the next few months. "This effort is as American as apple pie," Mr. Perkins said. "The tradition of expanding the franchise is one that has been seen over and over again in this country."
Several advocacy groups also criticized the mayor's position as shortsighted and unrealistic given the sheer number of immigrants living in the city. By some estimates, there are about a million legal immigrants of voting age who are not citizens. Others sided with Mayor Bloomberg, saying that they, too, felt that giving newcomers the right to vote would undermine the notion of citizenship.
"The mayor couldn't have said it any better," said Michael Long, chairman of the New York State Conservative Party. "I think he's right on target. Citizenship is something you have to earn, and work for."
New York Times April
13, 2004, Tuesday
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday that he favored streamlining applications for citizenship by reducing red tape, but he reiterated his opposition to granting the vote to legal immigrants who are not citizens. ''I believe voting is the essence of citizenship,'' Mr. Bloomberg said. Two City Council members, Bill Perkins and John C. Liu, are drafting legislation that would permit legal immigrants to vote in city elections, a notion that enjoys some support around the city. According to census figures, there are more than 10 million legal immigrants nationwide who are not citizens, some of them ineligible for citizenship because they are here on temporary visas, others who have not applied. Citizenship can take as long as 10 years because of a backlog of applications. Jennifer Steinhauer (NYT)
Published: 04 - 13 - 2004 , Late Edition - Final , Section B , Column 1 , Page 5
By Zachary R. Cowdy
Newsday, September 4, 2007
Addressing throngs at the West Indian-American Day parade yesterday in Brooklyn, Lt. Gov. David Paterson sparked interest in whether he seeks a shift in the state’s political direction when he noted that noncitizen permanent residents used to be able to vote in the United States.
He said as many as 22 states allowed the practice, and that he himself had introduced such a proposal 15 years ago in the state Senate - a measure that went nowhere, Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s press office said.
Paterson said America ‘used to be a land of opportunity,’ and he hoped it would be again, according to the New York Observer.
Indeed, at the start of the last legislative session, identical bills to extend ‘the right to vote to aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States’ were introduced in the state Senate and Assembly, but did not pass either house.
And the Voting Rights Restoration Act, which would give noncitizen residents the right to vote in municipal elections, was introduced last year in the New York City Council, where it is pending.
When asked later in the day, Paterson said that he was not advocating introducing noncitizen voting in New York, adding that he was merely providing a historical perspective.
‘The lieutenant governor was making them [the remarks] in a historical context and not referring to a new direction for policy,’ said Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman.
Givner said that as far as the Spitzer administration is concerned, noncitizen voting is ‘not under consideration at this time.’
The idea of noncitizen voting is not new.
As many as 40 states and federal jurisdictions allowed noncitizens to vote from the founding of the country in 1776 until 1926, according to Manhattan Community College political science professor Ron Hayduk’s 2006 book, ‘Democracy for All: Restoring Immigrant Voting Rights in the United States.’
In 1926, immigration policies changed in the wake of a wave of immigration and ‘nativist backlash,’ Hayduk said.
‘Noncitizen voting was practiced longer and is more consistent with democratic ideals than the idea that they should not vote,’ he said.
New York City allowed noncitizens to vote in public school board elections until 2003 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg disbanded the community school boards, Hayduk said.
Asked about noncitizen voting after the parade yesterday, Bloomberg told the Observer, ‘It’s a privilege of citizenship. If you want to vote, you should become a citizen.’
‘If voting were given to everybody, what’s the point of becoming a citizen?’ Bloomberg said, according to the Observer. ‘It is really the real difference between being a citizen and not being a citizen, and I think we should preserve that difference.’