New York City could become the first major U.S. city to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.
The council's committees on immigration and government relations are holding joint hearings Thursday to consider the proposal which would allow immigrants to vote who are "lawfully present in the United States" and have lived in the city for at least six months, Talking Points Memo reported
"For disenfranchised communities, people who have not been allowed to participate, who have not become civically engaged, this would be a huge move in the right direction," Council Immigration Committee Chair Daniel Dromm, the bill's co-sponsor, told Talking Points Memo.
"Having the ability to participate in elections would create a lot more civic engagement and, on a political level, I don't think communities like the community that I represent, which is 68 percent immigrant, would ever be able to be ignored again by anybody running for mayor citywide office in New York City," he added.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg opposes the measure, while some experts say it's a matter for the state legislature to decide. If the Council's proposal passes, it could ultimately become a matter for the courts to adjudicate.
"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," Bloomberg said through a spokeswoman.
But supporters say they have a veto-proof majority with the backing of 34 of the Council's 51 members needed to override a mayoral veto.
An effort in 2004 to allow non-citizen voting in New York City elections failed.
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