Politicians are always desperate to “get out the vote,” but the City Council is about to undertake an act of electoral desperation that is as selfish as it is exploitative and undemocratic.
The city’s legislature is pushing forth a bill to allow non-citizens the right to vote in municipal elections. Those elections focus solely on city offices, including mayor, public advocate, comptroller and—conveniently—all 51 City Council seats.
In our book, this is dead wrong. It is absolutely asinine to give the privilege to vote to anyone who happens to be in this city for as little as six months—legal or not.
Advocates of non-citizen voting advance many arguments for this initiative. They point out that non-citizen voting was, at one time, allowed in a number of early American states and territories. There were many things “allowed” in early Americana like child labor and racial segregation, but that didn’t make them right, either.
One City Council member claimed it takes too long for immigrants to become citizens, but if they live in New York longer than six months, they should still be able to participate in local elections. Those complications aside, the federal voting standard, as outlined in the Constitution, is that the right belongs to citizens 18 years of age and older—and that standard should be New York’s as well.
According to U.S. Immigration figures, 1.7 million foreign citizens and their families come into this country every year, along with over a million each year who have student visas. Should these folks also be eligible to vote in local elections?
Supporters of the bill point out that several cities in the United States, including Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, also have this option. However, there has been no analysis of the possible impact this policy would have on American politics and political culture.
This whole plan, however, reeks not of expanding democracy, but rather of guaranteeing politicians a surefire way to get thousands of more votes to acquire or retain power. It’s a legal way to stuff the city’s ballot boxes.
Much to his credit, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is against letting non-citizens vote. He recently stated, “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.”
However, there is enough support among City Council members to push this through and override a mayoral veto.
So far, mayoral candidates have been side-stepping this issue. With politics being what it is, they’re probably waiting to see which way the winds are blowing before making their opinions known.
When a person is elected to serve the City of New York, they must pay a nominal $9 fee to the City Clerk and take an oath to support and uphold the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of New York and the Charter of the City of New York.
Should the current City Council members support this stupid example of immigrant exploitation—this scheme to pad their political support—they will have, in our view, violated their oath.
Color us shocked—the politicians are flouting the rules again. We deserve better than this from our leaders.
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SERVING MIDDLE VILLAGE AND MASPETH SINCE 1938.