Since 2005, activists in the city have been working to extend the right to vote in local elections to noncitizens. Though there were prior legislative attempts in 2009 and 2013, those efforts never commanded as much political momentum.
But in June, the latest iteration of the bill — reintroduced last winter by New York City Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic — received its 34th co-sponsor, giving it a supermajority on the 51-member council. The legislation, while limited to permanent residents and those with work authorizations — meaning those with Temporary Protected Status or in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — would enfranchise some 900,000 New Yorkers. If passed, the bill would offer a significant boon to a growing national movement around expanding ballot access to immigrants.
Under council rules, bills with supermajority support are guaranteed a public hearing within 60 days. No hearing is yet scheduled, but activists say they’re working to get something on the calendar. “60 days would put us around August 9, and typically the city council doesn’t meet for hearings in July or August but the rules are the rules so we’re in conversation with the Speaker [Corey Johnson’s] office,” said Paul Westrick, the manager of democracy policy at the New York Immigration Coalition, which is organizing for the bill. The legislative season ends in December, so activists plan to ramp up pressure over the next six months.