Who Gets the Vote?

Should New Yorkers who are not citizens be allowed to vote in local elections?

It could happen, and backers of a bill introduced January 23 in the City Council argue that it will, possibly in time for 2021 municipal elections. City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, himself an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, sponsored the measure, which would give the vote to people who are legal permanent residents or have authorization to work. Nearly a million city residents pay taxes and contribute to the city, his office told CNN, but have no voice in its affairs.

But the bill will surely draw fire. At one point or other before 1926, noncitizens could vote in 40 states. But after San Francisco recently allowed some noncitizen parents to vote in school board elections, a GOP congressman pushed a resolution condemning the idea of allowing “illegal immigrants” to vote as one that would devalue, diminish, and dilute “the integrity of our elections.”

NYCityLens fanned out through the city in the wake of the council’s action to ask New Yorkers what they thought about the idea. Here are the results:


“I think it’s a great thing. A lot of people who aren’t citizens still have to pay taxes. People who live under the conditions of where they live have the right to have their voices heard.” — Brianna Limage-Puebla, 22, cashier


“If they have a green card, I think they’ve been through the process here, so I feel like they should some say in what happen here. A green card basically says we scanned you and know you’re a good person.” — Wei Chan, 25, photographer


“I think it’s good for the city. New York is very diverse. All these taxi drivers and people with green cards contribute a lot to the city. If they have a say, it will be good.” — Lamin Jadie, 30, delivery man


“I agree with it. This country is made of immigrants, first of all. So I feel just because you’re not from here, doesn’t make you any less of an American. So I think it would be good.” — Kareem Dantzler, 26, custodian

“They’re trying to solidify themselves here. It only makes sense that they have the freedom to partake in what’s going on in their government. Every voice matters.” — Michael Rodriguez, 27, dog walker


“You gotta go with the change. They got the right to vote like everyone else. If you pay taxes in New York, you have the right. They’re not here for free. Some people have the right to vote and don’t vote.” — Israel Lopez, 66, retired doorman

“If it encourages people to pay taxes and gain citizenship, then it’s a good thing.” — Lissette Montolio, 68, journalist

“Wow. I think it’s a good idea. We’re always getting an influx of people and they’re hardworking people.” — Luis Lendesbort, 48, musician


“I feel like if they’re a person who lives here, they should get to vote. There are already too many stipulations on those who cannot vote, and are usually excluding marginalized people. It does not reflect the public choice, if we aren’t allowing certain groups to vote.” — Marqui Jordan, 30, songwriter

“Yes, they should be allowed to vote because if a person lives here and works here and have family here, they should have the right to vote because now they can vote on things that I was not able to back in my days.” — Robert Walker, 79, retiree


“Yes, they should have to the right to vote because they can decide what medical benefits are available and what other benefits we get as a community.” — Osvaldo Rivera, 52, security guard

“As long as they’re paying taxes and not committing any felonies, I think it’s totally fine.” — Carlos Alberto, 29
“At the end of the day they should have a say because they’re living here. They pay taxes. They should have a say.” — Pranit Sharma, 19, grocery employee

“They should be allowed to vote. In a city like NYC, non-citizens are tax paying citizens, paying rent. It’s a real misnomer to believe non-citizens are criminals who were delinquent. Why not give them a say?” — Lysa Curry, 37, educator

“If you are here working, have a green card and pay taxes, you should be able to vote.” — Gabe Gonzalez, 68, bartender

“My husband is an immigrant and we pay our taxes, why shouldn’t he have the right to vote.” — Karina Pacheco, 35, blogger/housewife
“I think it’s a great thing. Our immigrants come here, they have their green cards, they help make New York City. I feel that if they can help make New York, they should be able to vote.” — Eugine Green, 60, laundromat owner

“I have many friends who are green card holders and have many friends who are here on long term visas. They pay taxes, they pay social security, and they’re heavily involved in their communities and local government already. So really they’re doing everything but voting. I don’t see anything wrong with [this proposal].” — Christine Friectchen, 50, website editor

I believe it’s a good bill, a lot of non-citizens contribute to the community and are informed and are affected by our laws. So I think they have a right to vote.” — Dennis Mojica, 26, customer service worker


“I think voting is an American citizen thing, so I’m not okay with that. Green cards and work visas are a special status, but it’s still not a citizen, and I think that voting should be reserved for citizens.” — Austin Frenkeo, 32, hedge fund tracker

“That’s a tough one. I’m all for Universal ID but to enfranchise non-citizens? I don’t think I would be for that. Why should they have all the privileges of a citizen? It’s our city, for the citizens of the city, so they maybe shouldn’t have all the benefits.” — John Jastremski, 68, city administrator/adjunct lecturer

“I disagree, because there are many people like me who never had the right and I ask why now and why not when I wanted to. We had no choice.” — Kevin Johnson, 73, retiree
“I don’t think this should be done now. These politicians only want to do this because they need votes. They don’t care about the community.” — Georgina Luna, 39, business owner

“I don’t think the City Council should approve it. Voting is protected by the Constitution. Would I be able to vote in another countries’ elections? No!” — Robert Doge, 70, consultant

“I feel that you must get citizenship first for the right to vote. My son in law is from Mexico and waited for years to get that privilege. It’s a terrible idea for New York. Voting is a right of citizenship.” — Bob Miller, 91, retiree

“I’m not sure I like it because they’re not citizens.”– Michael Johnson, 64, CPR instructor

“People who aren’t US citizens don’t have the best interests of America in mind. Their priorities lie elsewhere so they might not vote in the best interest of the United States of America.” — Alex McMahon 22, controller


“I have more questions than opinions at this stage. My first thought is that people who come from outside the states, yes, you may know the politics here, but they initially might not be as affected or involved.” — Maurice Boadi, 33, actor

“Non-citizens should be able to vote so their opinions are heard. But the weight of their votes should be calculated by how long they have lived in the city. It doesn’t make sense for people who are just traveling here for a month to decide who runs the city.” — Peter Ch’ng, 28, software engineer
“It depends on who it is specifically. Not everyone is informed. If they’ve lived here for a certain amount of time, they should be able to vote. If they’ve been here for five years, they’ve had time to settle down and get informed.” — Justin Rodriguez, 21, student/cafe clerk

“I think they should be able to vote after 10 years.” — Mark Kinn, 65, accountant
“My parents came over from Italy many years ago. I think living here for 10 years is reasonable. They should demonstrate that they are committed to staying here.” — Mario Rizervanto, 82

“If they’re part of the community then they should be able to vote as part of the community, the only problem with that is if some of the residences are being bought up by big companies so I wouldn’t want them to have the power. It should be about the people that reside. The influence that companies that go up and scoop up residential properties just to hold them, you know, that would concern me.” — Kathy Kullman, 60, paramedic

By: Matt Benedetti, Caroline Chen, TuAnh Dam, Kelly Davis, Enxhi Dylgjeri, Currie Engel, Christine Forbes, Jenna Gyimesi, Yoonji Han, Angie Hernandez, Christopher Howell, Carson Kessler, Yuontong Man, Joaquim Salles, Patrick Mulligan, Aryana Noroozi, Alex Phelan