NYC’s Non-Citizen Voting Law Splits Swing Voters


Photo by Joe Yates | Unsplash

When it comes to the process of voting in elections, the partisan divide continues to grow. Republican-led states are working to tighten their voting laws while Democrats in DC push for more expansive federal voting laws. Deciding who has the right to vote and under which circumstances has devolved into another hot-button issue across our country. We witnessed this firsthand on December 14 in the latest installment of the Swing Voter Project.


Earlier this month, the City Council in New York City approved a measure to allow non-citizens ages 18 or older – who hold work permits or green cards – to vote in local elections (while remaining ineligible to vote in state or federal elections).


When we met online with 13 Trump-Biden swing voters last Tuesday, we asked how they feel about this measure. There were real differences of opinion among our respondents, with five supporting the measure and eight opposing it.


Michael, 29, from Doral, FL, supports the measure. Referring to those in New York who are gaining the franchise, he said, “They’re greatly affected by local precedence and legislation that’s put into effect. They should absolutely have a say. If they’re living and working and paying taxes, then they should absolutely have a say in that.” 

Alicia, 36, from Burnsville, MN, echoed these sentiments, remarking, “They’re working. They’re giving back to the community. They’re living here. I think they should have a say as well.”  


“I know more than one person that has tried to become a citizen. It takes so long, and they’ve done everything; they’ve jumped through every hoop. And it’s not fair to them that our government, and all the red tape [has made it so that] they’ve lived here for years, and they still cannot vote. That’s not right,” complained Tabatha, 51, from Monroe, GA.


Those opposed to the New York City measure believe only U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote in our elections because they will live here permanently and have more of a vested interest in the outcomes of elections. 


“I understand they’re working and paying taxes, but at the same time, they’re not here permanently necessarily, so I feel like they don’t have as much invested in what might happen as a result of the way they vote,” commented Alisa, 41, of Phoenix, AZ.  


“You may be voting just for now; you may not be voting for the future,” explained Anna, 35, from Onalaska, WI. Her concern is that these voters would be merely present-oriented in their voting choices, and not think about the long-term.


“If they’re not here permanently, why would you care? I feel like it would be pointless for them to vote,” said Matthew, 34, from Philadelphia.


When presented with the scenario of someone residing legally in the U.S. for many years, respondents hinted at a bit of softening in their positions. Yet they still thought it would be hard to figure out where to draw the line to allow non-citizen voting based upon the number of years someone has lived in the U.S. or plans to remain here.


“I don’t think there’s any way to regulate it that way,” Alisa said.


Greg, 58, of Pottstown, PA added, “If you want to participate in our government and participate in our elections, take the initiative to become a full citizen.”


One respondent trotted out the “slippery slope” argument. Namely, she was concerned about opening the door to voting for non-citizens in local elections because someday they may be able to vote in state or federal elections.


“‘Where is it going to end?’ is my fear, remarked Kathleen, 48, of Casselberry, FL. “If this local thing passed, then maybe it would keep going and keep going to where they can just vote for anything [including for state or federal officeholders]. I don’t really agree with that.”

Rich Thau

Rich is the president of Engagious. His company is the industry leader in scientifically testing and refining the effectiveness of business and issue-advocacy content, moment-to-moment. The firm helps its clients become more successful by applying the power of behavioral science and social psychology to dial test focus groups.

Matt Steffee

Matt is the Vice President of Research at Engagious, responsible for conducting qualitative research, writing dial test scripts, gathering data, conducting analyses, writing reports, creating presentations, and moderating in-depth interviews.

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