Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) inaction on a city council-approved bill allowing non-citizen voting should not surprise anyone. Despite expressing his concerns about the legislation, when it came time for him to veto the bill, he dithered and let his term as mayor expire on New Year’s Day without taking action. Now, Mayor Eric Adams (D) will decide whether he will take action on the Council’s bill or simply allow the 30 days since the bill’s passage to run so it automatically becomes law.
During the campaign, Mayor Adams expressed support for the bill, but also wondered aloud whether it might be an “overstep.” Allow me to answer your question, Mr. Mayor – it’s not just an overstep but many oversteps.
Non-citizen voting is an affront to citizens in New York City. The founding American principle of self-government is government by our citizenry. That means people who have met all the challenges of becoming citizens. Adams talks about growing up poor, pulling himself up by his bootstraps, living the American Dream, and making himself first an NYPD captain, then a state senator, Brooklyn Borough President, and now finally mayor. As City Councilmember Inna Vernikov (R-Brooklyn), a naturalized citizen herself, said, non-citizen voting is “a slap in the face” to everyone who earned the privilege of being sworn in as an American citizen.
Moreover, it dilutes the votes of every American citizen in the city by allowing people who are legally authorized to work in the United States and here for as little as 30 days the opportunity to vote. It’s not without reason that City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn) pondered aloud whether the bill would weaken the voices of the city’s African-American community in particular, before casting her vote against it, joining eight other Democrats as well as all five of the Council’s Republicans.
For a mayor who ran on restoring and upholding the rule of law, it makes no sense to support something that so clearly undermines exactly that. Both New York’s state constitution and even more clearly its statutes speak of elections in terms of citizenship. Section 5-102 of the New York Election Law states that “no person shall be qualified to register for and vote at any election unless he is a citizen of the United States …” That’s why City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) has promised to sue should the bill become law.
Even former Mayor de Blasio recognized this legislation could be problematic for NYC. He alluded to the fact that he believed the issue of non-citizen voting needed to be addressed by the state legislature. Despite his convictions, Mayor de Blasio decided to leave the decision to his successor.
So do it, Mr. Mayor. Man up and own it. Prove you’re your own man and not just a rubber stamp for the Council. Veto this bill. Or if you think it should become law then you should have the courage to put your name on it. Show that you are different from your predecessor.
And New Yorkers? Give him a piece of your mind to make sure he knows that voting in NYC should be reserved for citizens.