USA Today columnist Raul A. Reyes penned an op-ed which appeared on CNN on Friday, titled “Why noncitizens should be allowed to vote,” praising the New York City Council after Democrats voted with a veto-proof majority to give nearly a million foreign nationals the right to vote in local elections on Thursday evening.
My latest for @CNNOpinion: "Allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections is smart policy & legally sound. It will strengthen communities and .. it is rooted in both American tradition and ideals." #NewYorkCity https://t.co/OP2jLCdpnL
— Raul A. Reyes (@RaulAReyes) December 10, 2021
“Bravo to New York's City Council for taking a meaningful step towards inclusion and representation,” he wrote.
“Allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections is smart policy that is legally sound,” Reyes continued. “It will strengthen communities and give more residents an investment in politics that affect their daily lives.”
Claiming that allowing noncitizens the right to vote is “rooted in both American tradition and ideals,” Reyes highlighted what he called the “strongest case” for the move.
“The strongest case in favor of noncitizens voting is the easiest to grasp. There are about 15 million legal non-residents in the country and about 800,000 in New York City,” he said. “These are our neighbors who pay taxes, send their children to public schools, start businesses and contribute to their communities.”
“They should be able to elect leaders and have a say in local politics just like anyone else,” he added.
He also claimed that the policy was “good for democracy” and would actually “strengthen” cities that adopt it.
“Giving noncitizens the right to vote will encourage civic engagement, thereby strengthening the cities that allow it,” he wrote. “The more people who vote, the more accurately leaders and policies will reflect their constituencies.”
“New York City did the right thing in moving towards allowing noncitizens to vote,” he asserted. “It will be good for the city — and good for democracy.”
According to Reyes, the right of noncitizens to vote has a long history in the United States.
“It might surprise people to know allowing noncitizens to vote is an idea that is neither new nor radical,” he said. “Voting by noncitizens has a history going back to the founding of our country.”
“From 1776 to 1926, San Francisco State University Professor Ron Hayduk notes, noncitizens could vote in local, state, and some national elections,” he added. “Some could also hold office.”
Calling attention to the text of the state's constitution, he claimed the wording did not specifically bar noncitizens from voting.
“Even today, although New York state's constitution says ‘every citizen shall be entitled to vote at every election,' it does not say noncitizens cannot vote,” he wrote. “This distinction will be important for the expected legal challenges to New York City's measure.”
Reyes noted a “practical component” to justify noncitizen voting as well.
“If a green card holder wants to naturalize and become a citizen, it takes money for fees and legal expenses, and, most importantly, time,” he wrote. “It is not fair that these potential citizens should go so long without any civic voice as their cases wind their way through our backlogged immigration system.”
He also argued that barring noncitizens from voting would “violate” long-held American principles.
“Consider that our country was founded upon the ideas of ‘no taxation without representation' or that the Declaration of Independence states ‘Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,'” he wrote.
“Barring noncitizens from voting would seem to violate both of these principles,” he argued.
Though Republicans have staunchly opposed the new policies, Reyes ridiculed Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel's stated commitment to “fight to protect” the ballot “almost laughable.”
“Her words are almost laughable given that Republican-led legislatures across the country have consistently moved to restrict voting access,” he wrote, adding that the U.S. Supreme Court “has been chipping away at voting rights for years.”
“Republicans have no legal or moral standing to whine about protecting the right to vote,” he added.
On Thursday, the Democrat-led New York City Council passed legislation allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections — the first major city in the U.S. to do so.
The 51-member panel voted 33-14, with two abstentions, to pass a plan by Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan) that will grant more than 800,000 foreign nationals with green cards, visas, and work permits the opportunity to vote in city-wide elections provided they have resided in the city for at least 30 consecutive days.
“We have made history today,” Rodriguez wrote in a statement following the vote. “Nearly 1 Million noncitizen immigrant New Yorkers will be allowed to participate in our City's election!”
#Breaking: The New York City Council becomes the largest city in the nation to enfranchise non-citizen immigrant New Yorkers.
— Ydanis Rodriguez (@ydanis) December 9, 2021
Hours before the vote, Councilwoman Inna Vernikov (R-Brooklyn) — who would later vote against the plan, alongside Councilmembers Bob Holden (D-Queens) and Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) — said she sought to organize a protest but the city did not approve a permit.
The New York State Republican Party issued a statement indicating it will file a lawsuit to get the plan thrown out, arguing the state's constitution is explicitly clear that voting is a right guaranteed exclusively to American citizens.
Statement from NYGOP Chairman @NickLangworthy on New York City Democrats' Vote to Give Non-citizens Voting Rights⬇️
"We will fight, using every legal means necessary, to prevent this legislation from becoming law. Stay tuned for further announcements about our legal action." pic.twitter.com/N2wChAayce
— New York GOP (@NewYorkGOP) December 9, 2021
“Today's irresponsible vote by New York City Democrats to give the sacred right to vote to over 800,000 non-citizens is a dangerous attack on our election integrity,” state GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy wrote.
“We are now on a slippery slope toward illegal immigrants voting and foreign interference in our elections,” he continued. “We will fight, using every legal means necessary, to prevent this legislation from becoming law.”
As Breitbart News noted, the move has the potential to massively influence local elections while diluting the votes of American citizens in the city.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams (D), who will replace Bill de Blasio in the coming weeks after winning the Democrat mayoral primary by less than 7,200 votes in July, said he supports the plan.
Likewise, as noted by Councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx), the plan is set to shift electoral power to foreign nationals with ties to the United Nations, Wall Street, and the global financial system.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein.