More than 800,000 noncitizens in New York City are now eligible to vote in the city’s municipal elections after a new law was passed Thursday by the City Council.

The law, passed 33 by a vote of 33 to 14 with two abstentions, makes New York City the largest city nationwide to give noncitizens voting rights.

The new legislation gives any New Yorker who is a lawful permanent resident or authorized to work in the United States, who has been a resident of New York City for at least 30 consecutive days and who meets all the qualifications for registering to vote under the Election Law other than U.S. citizenship, the ability to register to vote as a “municipal voter.” 

Registered municipal voters would be entitled to vote in any primary, special, general, or run-off election for Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough President, or Council Member, as well as on any local ballot initiative.

Noncitizens will be able to start registering to vote on Dec. 9, 2022, and can begin voting in local elections as of Jan. 9, 2023. The Board of Elections will implement the system, which would include developing a new registration form  for municipal voters and giving them the opportunity to enroll in a political party so they can vote in local primary elections.

The legislation was sponsored by Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, who said given the diversity of New York, the City Council had to ensure there was adequate representation for all New Yorkers. “That starts by expanding the scope of who is allowed to vote in our local elections,” he said.

“Immigrants in New York City own over half of the local businesses and contribute over $190 billion dollars to the citywide GDP. During the height of the pandemic, it was our immigrant New Yorkers who kept New York City running.”

He added that over half of the city’s front-line essential workers were immigrants and approximately one in five are non-citizens who should have all earned the right to participate in city elections.

Of the 808,000 adult lawful permanent residents, green card holders, or those with work authorization, 130,000 are from the Dominican Republic and 117,500 are from China, according to City data.

However, concerns were about the new legislation, including by Brooklyn Councilmember and Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo who voted against the bill questioning if it would diminish the voting power of the city’s African American community.

“This particular legislation is going to shift the power dynamics in New York City in a major way,” Cumbo said.

Incoming Councilmember Tiffany Cabán said Cumbo’s argument was “divisive,” adding that “Expanding the right to vote for some folks does not in any way diminish or tarnish the right to vote for others.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio also objected to the new legislation, questioning whether the City Council had the power and authority to grant voting rights to noncitizens. However, he said he would not veto the bill. The bill automatically becomes law if it is not signed in 30 days.

According to The New York Times, Mayor-elect, Eric Adams has said he supports the rights of green card holders to vote in local elections, but that he also questions the City Council’s ability to grant voting rights to noncitizens.

A spokesman for Adams told The New York Times he would review the legislation when he takes office.

Anna Bradley-Smith

Anna Bradley-Smith is Brooklyn-based reporter with bylines in NBC, VICE, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @annabradsmith.

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