New York City poised to give partial voting rights to 800,000 non-citizens living in the city

Under provisions in a bill nearing approval, around 800,000 noncitizens in New York City would be allowed to vote in local elections to choose the mayor, City Council members, and other municipal officeholders. Noncitizens still, though, would not be able to cast a ballot in statewide or nationwide elections.

Not much is standing in the way of the bill becoming a law in New York City. The measure has a high level of support within the City Council, which is expected to pass the proposal on Thursday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he has some concerns over the wisdom and legality of the proposition, but he noted that he will not veto it. As law, electoral power would be given to many New Yorkers who have made the city their permanent home despite not becoming U.S. citizens.

Over a dozen communities in the United States currently allow noncitizens to have voting power, which includes 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont. San Francisco began allowing noncitizens to vote in school board elections through a ballot initiative ratified by voters in 2016. This was also true in New York City before its school boards were abolished in 2002 and control of schools was given to the mayor. 

Voters in Alabama, Colorado, and Florida last year ratified measures to specify that only U.S. citizens can vote. Those states joined Arizona and North Dakota in adopting legislation that would preempt efforts to pass laws like the one being discussed in New York City.

De Blasio explained his concerns over the measure, questioning whether it would survive a legal challenge. Joseph Borelli, a Republican and minority leader of the City Council, said the measure will almost certainly end up in court.

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