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Mayor Adams defends support of noncitizen voting bill as key toward boosting NYC’s democracy

Mayor Eric Adams discussed tackling gun violence with families who've lost their children to violent crimes.
Photo by Dean Moses

The morning after announcing his support of a noncitizen voting bill permitting at least 800,000 work visa and green card holders in New York City the right to vote in municipal elections, Mayor Eric Adams defended his decision Sunday during an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union program.

Hizzoner told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he had initial concerns about the bill’s provision which allows any legal noncitizen living in the Five Boroughs for no fewer than 30 days the ability to vote in city elections. However, Adams said his concerns were allayed after speaking with his colleagues in government.

“I’m a big believer in conversation. We have to start talking to each other and not at each other,” Adams said. “And after hearing their rationale, and their theories behind it, I thought it was more important to note veto the bill and allow it to move forward. I think it’s imperative that people who are in a local municipality have the right to decide who’s going to govern them.”

The “Our City, Our Vote Bill,” as it’s called, passed the City Council back on Dec. 9, 2021, and was sent to then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s desk for his signature. But the former mayor never got around to signing or vetoing the bill before leaving office on Dec. 31, leaving the legislation’s fate to his successor, Adams.

According to the New York City Charter, the mayor has 30 days to sign or veto a City Council bill; if the mayor takes no action within the 30-day period, the bill automatically becomes law.

The legislation grants New York City’s legal noncitizens — those with work visas or green cards — the ability to cast ballots in municipal elections for city offices such as mayor, public advocate, city comptroller, borough president and City Council. It does not, however, extend to noncitizens the right to vote for state or federal elections.

Saturday night, Mayor Adams issued a statement indicating that he would not stand in the way of the Our City, Our Vote bill from becoming city law. 

“I believe that New Yorkers should have a say in their government, which is why I have and will continue to support this important legislation,” Adams said in the statement. “While I initially had some concerns about one aspect of the bill, I had a productive dialogue with my colleagues in government that put those concerns at ease. I believe allowing the legislation to be enacted is by far the best choice, and look forward to bringing millions more into the democratic process.”

Because the right to vote is assured to citizens both native-born and naturalized, the Our City, Our Vote Bill has been a topic of great debate and controversy. Although the bill had been revised several times to meet the muster of federal, state and local law by the time the City Council passed it, opponents — including state Republicans who’ve opposed measures expanding options for more citizens to vote, such as no-excuse absentee voting and 10-day-advance voter registration  — have vowed to challenge the law in court.

When Tapper asked Adams on Sunday if the Our City, Our Vote Bill made “a mockery of the idea of U.S. citizenship” and what could be said to someone who went through the arduous process to become a U.S. citizen who may feel slighted by the bill, Adams responded that the bill does not water down the importance of citizenship to noncitizen New Yorkers, and he encouraged them to keep pursuing it.

“Membership has its privileges. Being a member of what we call the United States of America is a great privilege,” Adams said. “I would tell them keep doing it, be encouraged. This is a great opportunity to be a member of this country.” 

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