Non-citizens to be allowed to vote in New York City

Image copyright AP Image caption In a 25-point plan for improving participation in the elections, the policy would also extend voting rights to people with outstanding arrest warrants

Noncitizens will be able to vote in local elections in New York City, it has been confirmed.

The Board of Elections announced the move on Wednesday and said non-citizens will have to provide a “credible explanation” for why they can’t vote.

Last month the New York state attorney general issued a similar ruling, ending many restrictions on non-citizens’ voting rights.

The move had previously been blocked by the state’s highest court.

Proponents of changing the New York law argued that voting is a civil right that should not be denied on the basis of citizenship.

The Board of Elections said on Wednesday it had reached a compromise with a group of city lawmakers, which will pass the proposal with 22 votes in favour.

“Empowering a million eligible New Yorkers to exercise their fundamental democratic rights will strengthen our city and our democracy,” said city council speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat.

But opponents, including the state’s biggest political parties, say the change “bears little connection to reality” and is “little more than window dressing”.

Photo: screenshot / BBOE

The proposal mandates that all non-citizens, who will be allowed to vote in elections in the city for public office, explain why they cannot do so.

Some have described the change as an improvement on the status quo, which often saw non-citizens playing no role in politics or civic life.

“All people who share this unique American rights and privileges – the right to vote and the right to receive and keep government service and goods – should have their voices heard at all levels of the government,” said Miltary Pierson, the director of the immigrant rights at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Photo: screenshot / BBOE

In August, New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed a formal notice of intent to sue the state and board of elections to end restrictions on non-citizens’ voting rights.

“Too many citizens today don’t have that right and it has adverse implications for our state and democracy,” Ms Underwood said.

She noted that non-citizens sometimes are not eligible to vote because they have serious criminal convictions, or because they have outstanding arrest warrants.

Under the new rule, non-citizens can vote in mayoral and city council elections in New York for the first time. Non-citizens also will have the ability to vote in certain local primaries and conventions, the spokesman for the Board of Elections said.

The votes will count but they will not count in the city’s election in November to choose the party nominee for president.

In the final days of the Democratic primary in August, a group of Democrats wearing bright yellow T-shirts campaigning on behalf of Senator Elizabeth Warren defied election officials and cast their votes.

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