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12 Dec, 2021 23:57

New York mayor allows non-citizens to vote despite ‘big legal questions’

New York mayor allows non-citizens to vote despite ‘big legal questions’

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he signed a bill allowing non-citizens to vote, despite having doubts about the measure’s legality, leaving the decision to city council members as he focuses on fighting Covid-19.

“I have mixed feelings,” de Blasio said on Sunday in a Fox News interview. “I've been very open about it on this law, and I think there are big legal questions, but I also respect the city council. They made a decision.”

He then tried to shift the conversation back to the Covid-19 pandemic, which had already been discussed in the interview, saying, “This is an important issue, but what we just talked about is the central issue, defeating the Omicron variant, defeating Covid so we can get back to life in the city. That’s where my focus is.”

The council passed the voting measure on Thursday, clearing the way for about 800,000 non-citizens in New York to participate in city elections. Legal residents, such as green-card holders, will only need to live in the city for 30 days prior to an election to be allowed to vote. The move made New York the largest city in the US to allow foreign citizens to vote.

Critics argued the bill violates the New York state constitution and dilutes the value of citizenship. “This is an unprecedented attack on election integrity, and we are reviewing our legal options to ensure it doesn’t stand,” the Republican National Committee said on Friday.

De Blasio said he’s spending his final weeks in office – his successor, Eric Adams, will take over as mayor on January 1 – focusing on keeping “this city safe from the Omicron variant, getting away from the Covid era. This is one of the safest places in America when it comes to Covid, and we intend to keep it that way.”

The mayor last week announced the most sweeping vaccine mandate in the US, ordering all employers to require their workers to be inoculated against Covid-19 by December 27. Asked why he didn’t leave that decision to Adams, he told Fox host Chris Wallace that his “tough, strong approach with mandates is what has kept us safe.”

De Blasio is expected to run for governor in 2022. Wallace pointed out that polls show current Governor Kathy Hochul has six times as much voter support as de Blasio, and that only 28% of New Yorkers have a favorable opinion of the mayor. De Blasio’s campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination lasted just four months. Polls showed that less than 1% of voters supported him, and he was one of the first candidates to drop out of the race.