Rather than talk about yesterday’s elections (though we’ve got a lot to say), we wanted to bring up an important City Council bill that was introduced earlier this year by Queens Councilmember Daniel Dromm that could have a major impact on improving the democratic process in NYC. The bill proposes allowing non-citizen residents of New York the right to vote in local elections. Residents would need to have lived in New York City for at least 6 months, hold a legal green card, and meet any other current requirements for voter registration.
This bill’s passage makes a lot of sense. If residents are paying taxes, sending their children to school, and are active members of society, they should have a voice in how their community is run. Duh. According to the New York Daily News, the city has a tradition of including immigrants in voting processes. All residents- whether or not they were citizens- had the ability to vote in school board elections back when school boards were locally controlled and not run by the mayor.
Dromm points out that before 1920s, immigration laws were not in place that prevented immigrants from voting in their local elections.
For almost the first hundred and fifty years in the history of this country immigrants were allowed to vote. Originally, when you came to this country if you were a white landowner you could vote. Then women had to fight for the right to vote. Then African-Americans had to ensure their right to vote in the 1960s through the Voting Rights Act. So there has been a history in the United States of people seeking redress from their government on voting rights issues and we feel this is just another step in the logical progression of human and civil rights for people in this country.
At UHAB, we believe that residents should have control over what happens in their communities, and therefore we strongly support this bill. City Council does, too. Even though Bloomberg has threatened to veto the bill’s passage (what hasn’t he threated to veto?), the bill has the support of a veto-proof majority- 34 councilmembers.
While scores of New Yorkers went out and voted yesterday, the bill would allow one and five more New Yorkers to vote- and in some communities one in three! As Dromn aptly puts it:
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 major citywide office in New York City.
Let’s hope the bill passes soon.