Four years ago, newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron made a triumphant return to New York City, where he had courted votes from French expatriates nearly a year earlier.
“Reviens! — Come back!” he told his constituents gathered at the 92nd Street Y, a plea met mostly with shrugs.
Why should they go back? They have everything they need right here: lower taxes, extensive city services and — like most expats in America — they can still vote for president and the local officials in their ville de naissance in France. And soon, when lame-duck progressives in the City Council get their way, they will also be able to help decide who governs New York City.
A bill to allow noncitizens to vote is poised to be pushed through the council next month. Suffice to say, it will profoundly transform elections in New York City as we know them.
The bill’s backers say it will finally enfranchise an estimated 800,000 New York residents who are green-card holders, DACA recipients or otherwise in the country legally, all with little input from the city’s existing 5.6 million citizen voters.
Though New York has more registered voters than the entire population of South Carolina, elections for local offices are decided by a paltry few. Only 20 percent turned out in the general election, and the Democratic mayoral primary was decided by fewer than 10,000 votes. Council victors were lucky to rack up 20,000 votes. This means these newly enfranchised voters have the potential to hold real sway.
Yet this group of noncitizens is hardly disenfranchised. Like France, many countries allow citizens living abroad to vote in their elections. Almost all allow in-person voting. It is not uncommon for candidates from the Dominican Republic, for example, to open offices in New York City, where about 103,000 Dominican expats are registered to vote back home.
To vote there, one is required to establish long-term residency and even present a national ID card. Not so in “progressive” New York, where under this new legislation, these same citizens of the Dominican Republic may establish voting rights by residing here just 30 days before an election. This will make it less stringent for many Dominican New Yorkers to vote here under the new law than in the country where they hold citizenship.
The DR and France are hardly unique. In 2022, qualified residents could vote for a New York City Council member as well as for the president of Brazil, the Australian parliament or any election in the dozens of countries allowing expats to vote. This year, if the rules applied, a person could have cast a vote for Eric Adams and London’s Sadiq Khan within weeks.
Giving someone whose only evidence of any stake in this city’s future has been to stay here for a whole month a say in electing our leaders evinces a reckless disregard for the very real long-term problems this city faces, including grappling with multibillion-dollar budget deficits, rising crime and disorder and economic uncertainty amid a global pandemic.
Do New York’s powerful unions really want people working here on temporary visas to make decisions that would impact this city’s long-term debt and pension liabilities?
Do the good-government wonks think that diluting the voices of this city’s 5.6 million voters — many of whom have waited years to become citizens — will encourage more people to participate in our democracy?
This move shows how much contempt the far left has for the New York City electorate.
These are the same out-of-touch activists who have devalued citizenship and actually discouraged naturalization into this country by making New York a sanctuary city, so all immigrants can remain here without fear of being deported even after committing heinous crimes, and by extending benefits to immigrants, regardless of legal status. It was always in their plans to ultimately give away voting privileges.
To justify this, proponents are trying to sell us on the notion that offering them voting rights would encourage them to become citizens. That seems counterintuitive, at best.
If the champions of this bill really care about our democracy, they would encourage immigrants to strive toward American citizenship — not cheapen it by giving away the store.
And they would take the fundamental question about who can and cannot vote in New York City to the people themselves, by putting this on a ballot referendum in November.
At the very least, shouldn’t our citizens have a say in whether or not their votes get diluted by noncitizens?
Joe Borelli is the minority leader of the New York City Council.