City Republicans–and Adolfo Carrion Jr.–slammed proposed city legislation that would allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in local elections, calling the idea offensive, illegal and just plain dumb.
The City Council held a hearing earlier today on a bill that would allow any resident legally living in the city for six months or longer to vote in municipal elections. The bill, which is opposed by the mayor, has wide support on the council, with 34 sponsors–a veto-proof majority.
But Mr. Carrion, the former Bronx Borough President who worked in the Obama administration and would be the city’s first Hispanic mayor, took a cue from Mayor Bloomberg, slamming the bill as “well intentioned” but “one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.”
“There are very few things that bring me to the point of being almost speechless. This is one of them. Being a citizen of the US is a privilege that carries with it an awesome and sacred responsibility–the right to vote,” said Mr. Carrion, who is running on the Independence Party line. “If we water that down, we are essentially removing one of the building locks of our democracy, let alone violating state law.”
He also argued elected officials already represent non-citizens. “How about we focus on the fact that there is a crisis of confidence already amongst the citizenry, and address the fact that only 3 in 10 registered voters are going to the polls in New York right now?” he asked.
Supporters, inducing City Councilmen Danny Dromm and Ydanis Rodriguez, say the bill would give the right of representation to thousands of New Yorkers who pay taxes and live here legally, but still cannot vote.
“We currently have an estimated 850,000 legally residing, taxpaying New Yorkers, who are not represented at any level of government,” Mr. Rodriguez said in a statement. “Our country was founded on fighting taxation without representation and we are simply looking to uphold this central belief today.”
But Republican supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, who was born in Greece and immigrated to the the U.S. when he was six months old, slammed the council for pandering and said he thought the legislation would never hold up in court.
“It’s silly to even bring it up and I don’t know who they’re trying to make happy,” he said. “I believe this is a Constitutional issue … I don’t think it passes the smell test of federal law.”
He used a barbershop analogy when asked who he thought lawmakers were trying to make happy: “When the barbers have nothing to do they give each other haircuts. I believe they’re giving each other haircuts,” he said.
Joe Lhota also expressed his opposition. “He believes that you must be a citizen to vote,” he said via a spokeswoman. And Doe Fund Founder George McDonald agreed that, “No matter how well-intentioned, voting is a right reserved for citizens.”
Republicans from the City Council and State Legislature also slammed the bill, saying they were “offended” by the idea.
“The right to vote and select those who represent us in government is one of the most cherished and important privileges of our citizenry,” said the group, which includes State Sen. Martin Golden and council members James Oddo, Vincent Ignizio and Eric Ulrich. “To extend this privilege to non-citizens not only devalues United States citizenship but is inconsistent with New York State Election Law.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she planned to consider the bill after the hearing.
None of the other major Democratic mayoral candidates’ campaigns responded to requests for comment on the bill.
Disclosure: This reporter is not a U.S. citizen and also cannot vote in local elections.