May 9, 2013. Should legal immigrants who are not yet citizens be permitted to vote in New York City elections?
The NYC City Council will debate this question beginning on Thursday, May 9, in connection with Intro 410, which would allow pre-citizens to vote in New York City municipal elections.
It wouldn’t be the first time noncitizens could vote in New York elections. School board elections, before they were abolished, were open to all parents of children in New York City schools, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.
To provide some context to the debate, the Fiscal Policy Institute prepared this data table.
It shows that of the city’s 6.5 million voting-age residents, a little more than half (55 percent) were born in the United States, automatically making them citizens. Another quarter (24 percent) are immigrants who have become naturalized citizens.
That leaves 21 percent of the city’s residents 18 years and older who are outside of the voting process. Altogether: 1.4 million people.
The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there are about a half-million undocumented immigrants living in New York City—not all of them, of course, over 18 years old.
So, although we cannot give an exact estimate of how many non-citizen immigrant New York City residents are legally present in the United States, a good guess is about a million. That is a lot of people to be living here without political representation.
Commitment to citizenship seems like a fair condition of voting—this is, indeed, one of the central rights of citizenship.
However, many of these immigrants are already in the process of becoming citizens, a process that can take many years. In the meantime, they send their children to New York City schools, ride the New York City subways, and pay New York City taxes.
The attached data provides some sense of the reason for concern. The debate on this issue will start on Thursday.