ABC News: New York City gives noncitizens right to vote in local elections

ABC News: New York City gives noncitizens right to vote in local elections | December 2021: For Julieta Larsen, elections are bittersweet.

Hailing from Argentina, Larsen moved to New York City after meeting her husband, a firefighter with the FDNY. Now, seven years and two children later, she works as a community engagement coordinator at Queens Community House, a multi-service settlement home. 

Larsen says she's a politics lover, devoting her days to advocating for local legislation and setting up election and voter information sessions.

But come election season, there's always one question she asks but never likes to answer: "Have you voted yet?"

Though living in New York City for almost a decade and devoting her days to political organizing, Larsen is still a green card holder, making her ineligible to vote despite multiple attempts at a pathway toward citizenship.

"It's kind of funny, but not funny because I talk to people about the importance of voting. Yet, I cannot vote," Larsen told ABC News.

It's a nagging feeling for someone so entrenched in the political process. But change is on the horizon.

On Thursday, the New York City Council passed by a a 33-14 margin legislation called Our City, Our Vote, that will allow permanent New York City residents and those with work permits to participate in municipal elections.

New York City's local elections historically have attracted low voter turnout. A record-low 23% of New Yorkers voted in this year's mayoral election. This bill has the potential to dramatically change the city's electorate by giving more than 800,000 noncitizens the right to vote.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he would not veto the legislation despite reservations about the bill. Mayor-elect Eric Adams championed the legislation on the campaign trail and continues to voice his support.

Now it us up to the New York City Board of Elections to figure out exactly how the law will be implemented when it takes effect in 2023 during the city's next local election.

For Larsen and many other immigrants who work and pay state and federal taxes, the legislation presents the opportunity to finally have a say in who represents them.

"I deserve the right to vote for the person that I think would actually represent my interests and do something about those specific issues I care about," Larsen said.

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