The Coalition was formed in response to growing discrimination against immigrants in this country. Its purpose was to heighten the vital role that immigrants play in our communities and to rectify the lack of democratic voice experienced by 1.3 million legally-residing adults in New York City. Initially under the leadership of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, the Coalition was comprised of immigrant-rights organizations, groups promoting broader democratic participation, and representatives from universities, unions, social service non-profits, and small political parties. Coalition members helped write legislation granting voting rights in city elections (for mayor, controller, city council, and borough presidents) to non-citizens who have been legally residing in NYC for at least 6 months. The bill was introduced in the Council in 2005, but did not garner enough support to be brought to a hearing. The council member who introduced the bill was elected to the State Senate one year later, and the possibility of moving the legislation forward died with his departure.
In 2009, term-limits produced a large turnover in the composition of the Council, and the Coalition saw an opportunity to re-introduce the legislation. We approached the new Chair of the Immigration Committee, who agreed to sponsor a slightly revised piece of legislation. It was introduced in November 2010 as the “Voting Restoration Act [Intro 410].” Simultaneously, Coalition members set up meetings with individual council members to enlist support for the legislation, answering questions and concerns and informing them of the number of constituents within their district who would be affected. Within two months of its introduction, 21 out of 51 council members had signed on as co-sponsors.