Election Law

New York City Loves Voting So Much It Might Let Foreigners Do It

God, I love living in New York. Other cities think they’re “diverse.” Other cities think they have “racial tolerance.” Other cities don’t have diddle squat on NYC. I once saw a Puerto Rican call a ginger a “dumb sounding mic” and a black woman fired back with, “Why don’t you shut up before we all start thinking of names for you!” (Note: that woman was a little crazy; she left the subway banging some dude with her purse because he “bumped” her.) I once saw a meek-looking woman in a skirt suit ask a guy to blow his cigar smoke somewhere else, and the smoker said, “F*** you,” and the woman wheeled around, motioned to her crotch, and said, “Oh, better men have tried,” in an accent that suddenly sounded like she just rolled off a dock in Brooklyn.

In New York City, the majority race is “New Yorkers.” Sure, black New Yorkers have a harder time getting a cab, white New Yorkers have a harder time going to the movies without audience participation, but in so many ways the experience of living in NYC defines us more than our races, colors, and creeds.

So, it makes perfect sense to me there is a move to allow New York City residents to vote together, regardless of what country they come from or whether they are U.S. citizens. We don’t care about U.S. citizenship, we care about New York citizenship. To quote The Paper (the most underrated movie of my lifetime: “I don’t f***ing live in the f***ing world! I live in f***ing New York City! So go f**k yourself!”

Here’s the plan, according to Talking Points Memo:

Currently, citizenship is a requirement for voters throughout New York state. This legislation, “Voting By Non-Citizen Residents,” would allow immigrants who are “lawfully present in the United States” and have lived in New York for “six months or longer” on the date of a given election to vote provided they meet all the other current requirements for voter registration in New York State. This means they must “not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction” and “not be declared mentally incompetent by a court.” For their first time voting, they must also provide identification including; “copy of a valid photo ID, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or some other government document that shows your name or address.” Identification requirements would not remain after their initial vote. The bill only affects local races and calls for the registration forms provided to these “municipal voters” to specify that they “are not qualified to vote in state or federal elections.”

Now, the super liberal in me thinks, “Wait, some random German is going to be able to vote in the city but a brother held up on drug possession can’t get in the game.” But, that’s the kind of all-or-nothing thinking that dominates the Republican party nowadays.

Instead, I’m going to embrace the forward thinking represented by this bill. Non-citizens have to pay the ridiculous state and local taxes here, just like everybody else. The fact that they don’t fill out (hundreds of) forms, spend time and money, and pledge allegiance to whatever, doesn’t mean they get a tax break. And in this country, if we’re going to tax people, we need to give them a chance for self-representation. I’m sure I’ve heard that in slogan form on a bumper sticker or something.

Not every New Yorker is a fan of this bill. For instance, Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposes it. Then again, I think Bloomberg just reflexively opposes the notion that anybody besides him should get a say in how New York City is run:

“The Mayor believes voting is the most important right we are granted as citizens and you should have to go through the process of becoming a citizen and declaring allegiance to this country before being given that right. That being said, this bill violates the State constitution and the Administration does not support it,” Evelyn Erskine, a spokeswoman for the mayor said.

It is an open question as to whether New York City has the authority to enact its own rules for voter laws, separate from those of the state for municipal elections. But we should. Hell, if Albany had its way, New York City residents would only count for 3/5ths of a vote.

New York isn’t the only place looking at expanding the rights of non-citizens to participate in our democracy. Out in that other great melting pot of California — where they judge you not by the color of your skin but the quality of your plastic surgeon — the state is thinking of allowing non-citizens to serve jury duty.

You know what I’m not going to understand when the I read the xenophobic comments in an hour and a half? Why people will care about denying non-citizens voting rights. Like, I’ll get why partisan Republicans don’t want non-citizens to vote: their party has doubled down on the old white man voting block and anything that dilutes that will make things harder for them. But beyond zero-sum politics, there will be people who just don’t think these foreigners should get to vote for New York City comptroller because… well, that’s what I don’t get.

Some person lives in your building, gets coffee at your Starbucks, works in the faceless office building next to yours, and actually cares enough to vote in a municipal election. She pays her taxes and doesn’t steal your mail. You were born over here, she was born over there. And you’re going to get up in arms about her voting because she hasn’t renounced her country of birth and pledged fealty to the United States? This makes her undeserving of voting on who gets to run the city? She can’t be trusted to sit on a jury that, like, nobody wants to sit on?

I don’t get that. And I think part of being an American is not letting some accidents of birth get in the way of the functions of good government.

NYC Considering Allowing Non-Citizens To Vote [Talking Points Memo]

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