NY1 VIDEO: Lawmakers, including City Council Member Daniel Dromm, and immigration rights groups are rallying to extend voting rights to non-citizens in Jackson Heights.
NY1 VIDEO: The Road to City Hall’s Errol Louis visited City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s 25th city council district in Queens.
New York City could soon become the first major city in the country to give non-citizens the right to vote. The proposal, which would allow certain non-citizens to vote in local elections, appears to have a veto-proof majority in the New York City Council — enough to overcome opposition by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As hearings on the proposal get underway Thursday, supporters are optimistic it will become law by the end of the year and believe it will have an impact beyond the five boroughs.
“It’s going to be huge and just imagine the implications that are involved here,” Councilman Daniel Dromm, one of the co-sponsors of the legislation along with Councilwoman Gale Brewer, told TPM Wednesday.
Currently, citizenship is a requirement for voters throughout New York state. This legislation, “Voting By Non-Citizen Residents,” would allow immigrants who are “lawfully present in the United States” and have lived in New York for “six months or longer” on the date of a given election to vote provided they meet all the other current requirements for voter registration in New York State. This means they must “not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction” and “not be declared mentally incompetent by a court.” For their first time voting, they must also provide identification including; “copy of a valid photo ID, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, government check, or some other government document that shows your name or address.” Identification requirements would not remain after their initial vote. The bill only affects local races and calls for the registration forms provided to these “municipal voters” to specify that they “are not qualified to vote in state or federal elections.”
“This is extremely important, because it’s based on the founding principle of this country and that was, ‘No Taxation Without Representation.’ All of the people who would be included in this and would be allowed to vote are paying taxes, they’ve contributed to society,” Dromm said.
If the City Council passes the proposal, New York would be, by far, the largest city in the nation that allows non-citizens to vote. Non-citizen voting currently exists in multiple smaller municipalities in Maryland and Massachusetts. The locations that have passed immigrant voting in Massachusetts have been unable to implement it because they need state approval. According to Ron Hayduk, an author, professor at Queens College, and co-founder of the New York Coalition To Expand Voting Rights, who was part of the team that helped advise on the creation of the bill, contends that, as a charter city, New York would not need approval from the state. However, Hayduk acknowledged there is some dispute on that issue, which he said will be debated at a joint hearing conducted Thursday by the Council’s committees on immigration and governmental operations.
“There’s legal experts that are going to be testifying … that are going to make the case that New York City has the authority to enact this on its own and it will not come into conflict with any state law,” said Hayduk. “There may be others that dispute that and, if that’s the case, it may end up in the courts.”
One person who doesn’t believe the bill is acceptable under state law is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a prominent advocate for other types of immigration reform in the past.
“The Mayor 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. That being said, this bill violates the State constitution and the Administration does not support it,” Evelyn Erskine, a spokeswoman for the mayor said.
However, Bloomberg’s opposition may not be enough to block the “Voting By Non-Citizen Residents” bill. It currently has the support of 34 of the Council’s 51 members, exactly the amount needed to override a veto by the mayor. Dromm first introduced the legislation in 2010 with the support of just eight council members.
There is one other person who could potentially block the bill despite its support: mayoral candidate and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. After Thursday’s hearing, the bill would next need to be scheduled for a vote in committee. If is passes that vote, it would need to go to the council floor for a vote. As speaker, Ms. Quinn decides when bills come to the floor, effectively giving her power to stall legislation indefinitely. However, Dromm is bullish about the bill’s prospects.
“I’m optimistic both with the committee and on the floor and I would hope that we could pass this by the end of the year,” he said.
Jamie McShane, a spokesman for Quinn, said he doesn’t think she is expected to be at Thursday’s hearing, but is “looking forward to reviewing testimony after the hearing happens.”
For his part, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez said he supports the bill both as the representative of a district with a large immigrant population and as someone who was an immigrant himself. Rodriguez said he came to America from the Dominican Republic in 1983 and gained citizenship in 2000.
“In those years, from the 80’s through the 90’s, I was doing exactly the same thing as someone who’s a U.S. citizen. … I was working hard, I was paying taxes, I went to school, I graduated, I became a teacher in 1993 when I got my green card,” explained Rodriguez. “I believe that we have a great opportunity to make New York City the first large city in the nation that would allow residents with green cards to vote in local elections.”
Dromm also argued the bill would improve civic engagement and force politicians to listen to the concerns of immigrant communities.
“For disenfranchised communities, people who have not been allowed to participate, who have not become civically engaged, this would be a huge move in the right direction,” Dromm said. “Having the ability to participate in elections would create a lot more civic engagement and, on a political level, I don’t think communities like the community that I represent, which is 68 percent immigrant, would ever be able to be ignored again by anybody running for major citywide office in New York City.”
New York is currently preparing for a mayoral election in November, but Dromm said he doesn’t “anticipate it being in effect” by then.
“I’m going to be honest with you, there are some issues that we need to work out in terms of its implementation with the Board of Elections and stuff,” said Dromm.
Along with the local implications, Hayduk said the passage of the bill would have a national impact — both in other cities that are considering proposals for immigrant voting and in the wider immigration reform debate.
“It would send a big message to the rest of the country and embolden campaigns which are ongoing in other places like San Francisco, and Portland, Maine, and Washington, D.C., and other places,” said Hayduk. “It would certainly be viewed favorably by immigrants’ rights advocates and be seen by other policy makers as another level of discussion about the whole business of the role of immigrants in the United States.”
Un grupo de organizaciones está lanzando una campaña a nivel nacional para incentivar a la población latina a hacerse ciudadano de Estados Unidos y ejercer sus derechos.
La campaña fue anunciada el miércoles por el presidente del Sindicato Internacional de Trabajadores de América del Norte, LIUNA, por sus siglas en inglés.
El primer evento de la campaña será aquí en Nueva York este sábado, una feria que proveerá asesoría legal gratuita para todos los interesados.
Según representantes de LIUNA, a nivel nacional hay siete millones de latinos que cuentan con los requisitos para ser ciudadanos pero no han hecho nada al respecto. Y en la Ciudad de Nueva York, esa cifra bordea el millón de personas.
La campaña busca crear conciencia sobre la importancia de participar activamente en la política de la ciudad y el país.
La primera fecha de la llamada “Feria de la Ciudadanía” es este sábado, de 11 de la mañana a 3 de la tarde, en la escuela Reinassance, en Jackson Heights.
La atención es con cita, para lo cual se le pide llamar al teléfono 646-943-6922.
Es tiempo que nuestra democracia, adopte el derecho al voto para todos los residentes en las elecciones locales. Todos somos parte importante de nuestra comunidad y todos deberíamos de tener voz en los asuntos locales. En las palabras de nuestros patriotas revolucionarios quienes arriesgaron sus vidas por las libertades que hoy nosotros disfrutamos. “No tributación sin representación”.
Nuestra democracia es muy incluyente pero todavía tenemos un largo camino por recorrer. A través de los años reconocimos el derecho a votar a afroamericanos, mujeres, y otros mas. Pero aún este derecho no ha sido extendido a todos los residentes. Residentes que pagan impuestos, pero que aún no han obtenido la ciudadanía americana no pueden votar ni siquiera en elecciones locales.
Por muchos años en nuestra historia, esto no fue así. Han habido alrededor de 20 estados, a lo largo de la historia americana, que no restringió el derecho al voto en elecciones estatales o locales, basados en la obtención de la ciudadanía. En el estado de Nueva York, este requisito no existió sino hasta principios del siglo diecinueve. Mas recientemente, la ciudad de Nueva York permitía a todos los padres de niños estudiando en las escuelas publicas votar para el respectivo consejo escolar entre 1969 y 2003, hasta cuando los consejos escolares fueron abolidos.
Bajo nuestras leyes actuales, uno de cada cinco adultos residiendo en la ciudad de Nueva York no puede votar porque aún no ha sido naturalizado americano. La habilidad de nuestra democracia inclusiva, capaz de crecer y evolucionar a la par con nuestra sociedad contrasta con esta prohibición. En mi distrito 65% de los residentes son inmigrantes, muchos de ellos no tienen voz en las decisiones que mas los impacta en sus vidas cotidianas. Estas personas que hacen parte de la comunidad no tienen derecho a votar en asuntos relacionados a la educación de sus hijos, la seguridad de sus propios barrios, o el futuro de su comunidad. Un sistema donde la sorprendente mayoría de la prolación es privada del derecho al voto, es injusta, poco democrática y antiamericana.
Somos una ciudad de inmigrantes. Todos los que vivimos en Nueva York somos miembros vitales de nuestra comunidad. Los inmigrantes han construido nuestros barrios y comunidades pagando impuestos, apoyando y creando negocios locales; y contribuyendo a nuestro rico patrimonio cultural. Recordemos que los inmigrantes son, y han sido siempre, nuestros colegas, vecinos, amigos y familiares.
Extender el derecho al voto tiene otro beneficio práctico. Incorpora a los inmigrantes a procesos democráticos y ayudaría a integrar a esta población a sus respectivas comunidades. Además, los prepara mejor para cuando obtengan la ciudadanía.
Si alguien siente que tiene voz en lo que sucede en su entorno, es mas factible que se interese por su comunidad. Yo quiero ver inmigrantes integrados a sus comunidades, no alienados como lo están bajo la ley actual. Además, los funcionarios electos serian más responsables cuanto mas electores posibles puedan votar.
Nueva York siempre ha sido un faro para inmigrantes y procesos democráticos. Inmigrantes o nacidos en Estados Unidos, todos tenemos una voz valiosa, y cuando nos permiten hacer parte del proceso político, nuestras comunidades se fortalecen.
Concejal de la Ciudad de Nueva York, Distrito 25
y presidente del Comité de Inmigración
Daniel Dromm, Democrat for City Council
Assemblyman Jose Peralta
City Council Member Julissa Ferreras
City Council Member Eric Gioia
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Make history. Join Daniel Dromm and the movement for change in Queens today.
Less than one year from now, you will go into the voting booth and you will select who will represent you in the New York City Council. You’re going to have to ask yourself when you vote in the primary in September and in the election in November, “Who will lead us toward a better tomorrow?”
We are at a crossroads in the history of New York City. Our economy is in danger. Our schools are not adequately educating our children. Our streets are dirtier, louder and more dangerous. And our political process is being taken over by corporate interests and self-serving career politicians.
I am running for City Council to make New York City a better place to live. I am running to build a better future for the children and families of Jackson Heights, Rego Park, LeFrak City, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Woodside and Corona.
As a public school teacher for the past twenty-four years, I know first-hand what is working in our education system and I know all too well what desperately needs fixing. As a community activist, I have been at the forefront of making sure that everyone has equal rights and a strong voice in our society. As a district leader, I work with elected officials, businesses, civic groups, and non-profit organizations to make our neighborhoods livable.
A vote for Daniel Dromm is a vote to bring the community together.
A vote for Daniel Dromm is for vote for better schools, cleaner and quieter streets, and safer neighborhoods.
Join me in making tomorrow better than today.
Sincerely, Daniel Dromm
“I believe anyone who pays taxes should be able to vote,” said Dromm, a Democrat. “That’s the principal our country was founded on. It’s a basic civil right. Voter participation is the basis for our democracy.”
Earlier this month, dozens of protesters, many wearing facemasks emblazoned with the word “Voiceless,” gathered on the steps of City Hall. Organized by the New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights, they demanded that non-citizens who are legal residents be allowed to vote in municipal elections. They said they deserve political representation because they are law-abiding New Yorkers.
This is hardly a new subject in the New York City public debate. For many years, pro-immigrant groups here have called for allowing non-citizens to vote but to no avail. Now, with candidates prepared for the 2009 mayoral and City Council elections, the campaign for non-citizen voting right has gotten a new burst of energy and is making a comeback. This time, the advocates are hopeful.
“There are going to be big elections in New York City in 2009, so we are latching on this big event to bring more attention to this issue,” said David Andersson, the rally’s main organizer. “It is a fantastic time for us.” He added that many City Council members will have to leave office at the end of next year, and if non-citizen voting is not a reality by then, he hopes to garner more support from the new members.