In January, New York City Council enacted, by a vote of 33-14, the “Our City, Our Vote” law, which changes the New York City charter to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections starting in 2022. Already, state lawsuits have been filed, challenging the new policy. (Coachman v. The New York City Board of Elections and Fossella v. Adams).
How much do you know about New York City’s new noncitizen voting law? Let’s play “Two Truths & a Lie” and find out.
A. Noncitizens and citizens can vote on the same ballot and use the same voter registration card under New York City’s noncitizen voting law.
B. New York City’s noncitizen voting law will allow noncitizens to vote even if they have lived in the city for only one month.
C. Under New York City’s noncitizen voting law, noncitizen reporters for foreign media may vote.
A. LIE! Because only citizens can vote in New York state and federal elections, implementing “Our City, Our Vote” will involve creating parallel registration and voting systems and massive amounts of paperwork, including affidavits that a noncitizen understands they are eligible to vote and disclaimers about risk of deportation, all of which needs to be translated into numerous foreign languages. To complicate matters, election officials still must use one pollbook of registered voters, and the law bans the city from having separate lines for noncitizens and citizens.
If you find this confusing, how do you think it sounds to noncitizens? If a legal permanent resident or visa holder does not understand this split system and even mistakenly votes for a representative in the New York Assembly or for a candidate for U.S. President, they risk denial of citizenship and even deportation.
B. TRUTH! Under the new policy, noncitizens who have lived in New York City for 30 consecutive days are permitted to vote. Is residency for one month sufficient time to develop an informed vote for Mayor, City Council, Comptroller, Public Advocate, and Borough President, as well as changes to the city charter?
C. TRUTH! Even those who are here on temporary work visas may vote under New York’s new policy, including those who are here on an I-visa for foreign press. As U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service explains, I-visa holders have a home office in another country, and are coming to the United States for the purpose of reporting for that foreign outlet. They still remain citizens of another country and have not declared their allegiance to the United States through the naturalization process. If you are visiting in order to “represent” another country’s press, are you voting with the best interests of New Yorkers in mind?
Bottom line: Citizenship is a privilege that has long been considered a prerequisite for voting rights. If one can vote without becoming a citizen, why become one? Instead of making our system more complicated and confusing, New York City should focus on running current elections with integrity, accuracy, and diligence. That will attract and welcome those who come to New York City and give them at least one reason to stay in America.