Funding for Non-Citizen Voting Program Left Out of New York Budget as Legal Struggle Looms

Mayor Adams’s behavior suggests a hesitancy to fully support New York City’s ‘Our City, Our Vote’ law, which will enable some 800,000 non-citizen residents to vote in local elections.

AP/Yuki Iwamura file
Mayor Adams in January 2022. AP/Yuki Iwamura file

Despite promises to defend New York’s non-citizen voting law, which would allow some 800,000 residents to vote in municipal elections, Mayor Adams did not move to fund the program in his budget.

The law will allow city residents holding green cards as well as those with work authorizations to vote in city elections starting in 2023. New York currently has 5.1 million eligible voters. With the new non-citizen voters, it would have nearly 6 million eligible voters in local elections.

The “Our City, Our Vote” law went into effect in January after passing through the city council last year. It was almost immediately met with a lawsuit brought by New York Republicans alongside the Republican National Committee.

“The RNC is suing to protect the integrity of our elections, and we stand ready to do the same wherever Democrats try to attack the basic security of your ballot,” the RNC chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, said at the time.

Although Mr. Adams has vowed to defend the law, some have come to believe that the mayor may not want to lay claim to a stake on the issue.

The bill passed with a veto-proof 36-to-15 majority and some were worried the new mayor would attempt to veto the bill. The mayor had said he was “concerned” about the law’s requirement that residents need only live in the city for 30 days.

Although he later publicly withdrew those concerns, expressing support for the law, the mayor chose not to sign the bill after it passed city council, instead allowing it to go into effect.

“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,” he said.

Now, the mayor has left an estimated $25 million in funding for the implementation of the new law out of the city’s budget, at least according to the council.

“New York City has an opportunity to encourage greater civic engagement and mobilize our communities to advocate for good public policies that invest in and enhance our city,” the council wrote in its official response to the budget.

“To effectively implement this legislation, the Council recommends a $25 million investment by the Administration to support community-based outreach to all New York City eligible voters, regardless of their citizenship status,” it argued.

There is still a chance the program will be funded, as the city Board of Elections has until July 1 to submit an implementation plan alongside an estimate on how much the program will cost.

“From a budgetary perspective, it is not a house-on-fire emergency to deal with right this minute,” the Board of Elections director, Michael Ryan, said.

The New York Immigration Coalition has argued otherwise, and says the council’s estimate is in line with past voter outreach programs.

Some see other reasons that the mayor may not want to back this policy.

The Board of Elections is “perpetually mired in corruption and incompetence,” a Manhattan Institute fellow, John Ketcham, writes. “Yet past assessments by the city’s Department of Investigations revealed systemic failures in poll worker training and election day practices.”

In Mr. Ketcham’s assessment, this “creates a non-trivial risk of legal jeopardy for newly enfranchised noncitizen voters” who “may lose their ability to naturalize or even their continued residency in the United States” if they mistakenly vote in a federal election.

It is also possible that the mayor is simply waiting to see the result of the lawsuit concerning the law. The most recent development is that a number of defendants have joined the case to push to save their newly granted right to vote.

Mr. Adams has declined to comment further on the issue.

The New York Sun

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