WASHINGTON – Hundreds of thousands of New York City immigrants could get the right to vote in local elections under a proposal before lawmakers.
A City Council hearing is scheduled for Thursday on a plan to allow people who are in the country legally, but aren't citizens, to vote. Advocates estimate that could be more than 800,000 people.
Many U.S. states once let noncitizens vote, though policies changed by the 1930s. Some Maryland cities now allow it, and the idea has been floated in New York's City Council for years.
Supporters say immigrants who pay taxes deserve to decide who spends them. Opponents say voting should be reserved for citizens.
New York state election law prohibits immigrants from voting, but supporters say the city has the right to set its own policies for local elections.
"When all contributing members of our society can participate, democracy is better served and everyone benefits," said the bill's sponsor, Councilman Daniel Dromm.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is opposed to the proposal. He "believes voting is the most important right we are granted as citizens, and you should have to go through the process of becoming a citizen and declaring allegiance to this country before being given that right," Bloomberg spokeswoman Evelyn Erskine said in a statement, also noting that the proposal contravenes state law.
Dromm says the proposal has enough support to override a veto, should it get to that point.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who exercises considerable control over what measures come to a vote, hasn't taken a position on the proposal. She said Wednesday she was looking forward to finding out more about it at the hearing.