Response to AM-NY Editorial Board article published March 23, 2015

In your March 23, 2015 editorial (“Don’t let noncitizens vote in NYC elections“) you state, in regard to citizenship, “Exercising the democratic right of voting should be a reward for that commitment.” But there are many ways that New Yorkers show their commitment to this city – by paying taxes, by being concerned and thoughtful neighbors, by actively participating in the betterment in our schools and communities, by volunteering for civic and nonprofit organizations, and by running businesses that serve us and keep the local economy thriving.

Democracy is about granting decision-making to those who are affected by the decisions made. The decisions made at the municipal level are about local concerns: our housing, our schools, our streets, our parks and green spaces, our garbage. It is about how we choose to use to put our tax dollars to use. Why shouldn’t those who are here legally and who pay taxes at the exact same rate as all of us be given a voice in how their taxes are spent? Why are they any less a New Yorker than me?

There are many reasons why people may be here without being US citizens, including substantial financial and bureaucratic obstacles to obtaining citizenship. But this is no reason for 25% of our neighbors to be denied a say in how our city is run. This distinction is recognized by the US Constitution, which requires citizenship for federal elections but allowing states and localities the right to grant local voting rights. If our history has taught us anything, it is that democracy is only strengthened by its expansion, never weakened.

David Andersson
Chair, NY Coalition to Expand Voting Rights
Queens NY
March 24, 2015