December 4, 2022

Volume XII, Number 338

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December 02, 2022

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New York City Grants Non-U.S. Citizens Right to Vote in Local Elections

The City Council of New York City unanimously passed legislation giving non-U.S. citizens the right to vote in local elections starting on January 9, 2023.

The bill grants this local franchise to 800,000 non-citizens if they are Permanent Residents or have work authorization and have been in residence in the City for at least 30 days. The bill does not allow non-citizens to vote in state or federal elections.

Some who support the legislation question its constitutionality, and the bill will likely face court challenges. Beyond that, the bill is controversial even in the pro-immigration community. Some proponents believe that granting the right to vote in local elections gives immigrants more of a voice and, therefore, more of a stake in the community. Others believe that, because the right to vote is a major reason to obtain citizenship, giving immigrants the right to vote in local elections might suppress their desire to become U.S. citizens.

With the passage of this legislation, New York City joins 15 other municipalities in New York state, Maryland, Vermont, and San Francisco that allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. Similar bills are being considered in Illinois, Maine, and Massachusetts.

Any immigrants who plan to register and vote in local elections pursuant to such laws need to understand the parameters. They may not register to vote or vote in any federal, state, or local elections not covered by the specific legislation. Doing so can result in immigration problems – particularly with applications for permanent residence (Green Cards) or naturalization, which ask applicants about falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen and registering to vote in elections, respectively.

Although registering to vote or voting in an election where non-citizens are eligible to do so is not an immigration violation, it is important for non-U.S. citizens to carefully review any forms they are signing to be sure they are not asserting they are U.S. citizens. They should also take care to not vote in any election that requires U.S. citizenship.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2022National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 356
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About this Author

Associate

Brian Shyr is an Associate in the Washington, D.C. Region office of Jackson Lewis P.C. His practice focuses on representing employers in business immigration matters, including obtaining employment-based visas and permanent residence for foreign national employees. While attending law school, Mr. Shyr represented individual clients in removal proceedings and organizational clients in research projects as part of the Immigrant Justice Clinic. He also served as a clerk in the Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation.

703-483-8300
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