AMAC Exclusive – By Andrew Abbott
Earlier this year, the Democratic Party managed to execute one of the most significant voting expansions in recent history when newly-elected New York City Mayor Eric Adams permitted the City Council to extend voting rights in local elections to “noncitizen residents.” For a party that has made “voting access” a cornerstone of their legislative agenda, such a development seems like a monumental success. But the legislation has been met with suspiciously little fanfare from the mainstream media and even elected Democrats in the weeks since its passage.
The new law in the country’s largest city, which affects some 800,000 residents who do not have U.S. citizenship, could take effect as early as next year. Notably, under the provisions of the legislation, individuals only have to be present in the U.S. for thirty days before being eligible to vote. Opponents have already promised legal challenges, and there remains some question about the Council’s authority to make such a change without action by the state legislature.
Nevertheless, granting noncitizens the right to vote seems on the surface to be a much-needed victory for a Democratic Party that has tried and failed three times on so-called “voting rights” legislation in the U.S. Congress. Yet when The Atlantic attempted to interview Democratic leaders on the topic, almost none would go on the record and comment on the controversial bill. Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most outspoken supporters of Democrats’ attempts to gut election integrity measures and a New York City native, was largely silent on the issue.
Elected Democrats’ unwillingness to go on record in support of allowing noncitizens to vote may be for a good reason. A recent poll conducted by Fox News found that 71% of all Americans opposed noncitizen voting. While that figure includes 89% of Republicans, it also includes a shocking 77% of independents and 50% of Democrats. For independents, this is a 7% increase from a 2018 poll. These results suggest that Democrats’ aggressive efforts to relax specific voting laws have actually increased opposition to them. Even AOC can’t argue with those kinds of numbers.
The law has also been the subject of a lawsuit for potentially violating the 15th Amendment, which states that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
There have also been indications that the law – and similar movements to grant noncitizens the right to vote in other liberal areas – could alienate Black voters, a key Democratic demographic. Last month, a group of Black voters sued the New York Board of Elections over the law, claiming that it was designed to advantage some groups of voters over others. Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a member of the board of directors at the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), which filed the lawsuit, is arguing that “They [the New York City Council] explicitly used race as a factor of demarking the voter groups that they wanted to give this privilege to and that is a direct violation of the 15th Amendment.”
The lawsuit cites statements from Council Members during the debate over the bill in which they appeared to argue that the legislation was designed to target specific racial groups. In one case, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, a sponsor of the bill, said explicitly that the bill would increase the power of Hispanics and Asians. Council Member Antonio Reynoso also framed the legislation along racial lines, claiming that anyone who opposed the bill was only doing so to preserve “white men’s power.”
This lawsuit raises a host of issues for Democrats, whose strategy is often to try to raise up the bogeyman of “white supremacy.” Now, however, as the liberal New York City Council’s actions threaten to diminish the voting power of Black citizens on behalf of foreign nationals, the party suddenly finds itself in an uncomfortable position.
In short, progressive lawmakers may be learning that granting noncitizens the right to vote, much like other radical policies like “Defund the Police,” is actually far less popular than left-wing activists insist. While such a realization is unlikely to stave off disaster for Democrats in November’s midterm elections, it provides another cautionary tale of the radicalism that has taken over the Democratic Party.
Andrew Abbott is the pen name of a writer and public affairs consultant with over a decade of experience in DC at the intersection of politics and culture.
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