Racism Is Charged of Opponents of Voting Rights for Noncitizens

Grace Rauh, New York Sun, September 8, 2008

In advance of the 2009 citywide elections, a coalition of immigrant and advocacy organizations is reigniting a fight to give noncitizens the right to vote in municipal elections, drawing the ire of opponents who argue that voting is a right for American citizens only.

At a rally outside City Hall yesterday organized by the New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights, supporters of a City Council bill that would extend voting rights to 1.3 million noncitizen New Yorkers said it’s unfair that immigrant residents pay more than $18 billion in state income taxes when they can’t vote for their representatives. The group is planning to pressure elected officials to back the legislation, which has been on file for more than two years but hasn’t moved forward.

A supporter of the bill, Council Member Robert Jackson of Harlem, {snip} suggested that those opposed to giving noncitizens the right to vote might be motivated by racism, and noted that in the early years of American history noncitizens were allowed to vote. That ended after World War I.

{snip}

Noncitizens in New York with children in public school had been allowed to vote in school board elections until the boards were abolished in 2002.

Any campaign to extend voting rights to noncitizens would be expected to face fierce opposition from the mayor and other council members who have held back their support from the bill.

A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg, Stuart Loeser, wrote in an e-mail message yesterday that the mayor “is superlatively pro-immigration and vehemently disagrees with those who demonize immigrants to score cheap points, but he believes just as strongly that the right to vote is a privilege and a responsibility for citizens only.”

{snip}

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