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Don't let noncitizens vote in NYC elections

A voting sign in New York on Nov.

A voting sign in New York on Nov. 4, 2014. Photo Credit: Getty / AFP / Jewel Samad

Voting is a right that should be reserved for U.S. citizens, in this nation and in this city.

Attaining citizenship is the final sign that those who came here for a better life have cast their lot with our democratic nation and its future. Exercising the democratic right of voting should be a reward for that commitment.

A proposed change in law to allow noncitizens to vote in city municipal elections was a hot topic in the 2013 mayoral race. It was never voted on by the City Council, though, because then-Speaker Christine Quinn did not allow it, even though a majority of the council supported it. Now it seems a vote on very similar legislation could be coming soon. Current Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan) has signaled she'd be more open to the idea.

The 2013 version, which this new bill will likely track closely, would have allowed any legal immigrant who had been in the city more than six months to cast ballots. So it's possible that not only permanent residents, but even people here on visas, would be allowed to vote. That seemed more like a perk for those who come to visit.

One study estimates this could add as many as 1 million voters. There are 4.6 million registered voters in the city.

There are a few jurisdictions in the country where citizenship isn't necessary to vote in local elections. In Chicago, for instance, you don't have to be a citizen to vote in school board elections. And early in our nation's history, many states and municipalities allowed noncitizens to vote. In New York City, noncitizens could vote in school board elections from 1969 until the Board of Education was abolished in 2002. So letting noncitizens vote isn't unprecedented, it's just unwise.

amNewYork supports immigrants almost without fail. It advocates for a simpler and faster legal immigration process, a path to citizenship for those who came illegally, and financial aid for state college tuition for those brought here illegally as children. But voting should be for people who have fully vested themselves in our nation. If you are a legal resident, then please, become a citizen. We'd love to have you join us and enjoy the privilege of voting.


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