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City Council Passes Bill Allowing NYC Residents Who Are Not Citizens To Vote In City Elections

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Nearly a million New York City residents who could not vote in local elections due to their citizenship status may soon be able to.

With a vote of 33 to 14, the City Council passed the "Our City Our Vote" legislation Thursday, granting non-citizens who are either legally authorized to work in the country or have legal permanent residence status the right to vote in municipal elections - not federal or state.

The measure now heads to Mayor Bill de Blasio for him to sign into law. De Blasio has been hesitant to fully support the bill and said he believes there are still outstanding legal questions, but ultimately, the mayor said he will likely respect the council's decision.

As CBS2's Thalia Perez reports, it's a groundbreaking expansion of voting rights for non-citizens, impacting approximately 800,000 New Yorkers.

"We are taking a step today to create more franchise for people. To expand democracy in New York City. To make sure that people are more connected to civic and local matters and affairs," said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

"We're doing it the right way by expanding voting rights," Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez told CBS2's Ali Bauman.

Rodriguez is a sponsor of the bill, which will allow about 800,000 immigrants with green cards, work authorization and DACA recipients to vote in local elections.

"We will be kind of a role model not only for the state of New York, but for the whole nation," Rodriguez said.

The decision came after hours of heated debate on the council floor.

"What this bill is going to allow a year from now is someone with a work visa to come in and 30 days later be able to vote," Councilman Mark Gjonaj said.

"This bill is taxation with representation," Councilmember Margaret Chin said.

Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo questioned the potential impacts on city politics.

"This particular legislation is going to shift the power dynamics in New York City in a major way, and we do not have the numbers or the information to know how this is going to impact African-American communities," Cumbo said.

But opponents like Councilman Joseph Borelli say it's unconstitutional, and are threatening to sue.

"There's additional election law and municipal home rule law that we are seemingly going around to pass this bill, which everyone over the past several decades has called illegal," Borelli said.

Unstirred, supporters are already looking to the next municipal election in 2023.

"What we have to do now is create a city voting process that allows legally permitted residents to vote," Councilman Carlos Menchaca said.

Those in favor though maintain the bill is long overdue.

"I'm a classroom teacher, so I always say to my students it's important for representation, it's important to be seen and heard," said participant Melissa John. "So hundreds of thousands of immigrant New York City residents, like myself, we will finally be able to be seen and heard in the political process."

The move would place New York City in the lead as the largest U.S. city giving non-citizens access to the ballot.

"We're all going to be better off when the people who are invested in the future of our city have a say in the direction of our city," said Anu Joshi of the New York Immigration coalition. "These are folks that have lived here for decades, are raising their kids here, their kids are in public schools. They're deeply invested in New York City."

Part of the argument favoring the bill has been that these New Yorkers pay taxes, invest in their communities, and contribute to the city.

The measure would go into effect next year.

CBS2's Thalia Perez contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story was first published Dec. 9.

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