Written by Randi Belisomo, CNN
No matter how inclusive voting rights legislation may appear on the surface, there will always be people who feel — and a government agency will find a way to interpret this to suit the political process.
It’s no different with the latest proposal from the New York State Department of State, which has asked US senators to pass legislation that would authorize New York state to allow non-US citizens to vote in state, city and county elections.
It would also allow local officials to accept non-US citizen documents as identification for voting.
The comments on the Department of State’s website come amid a wide-ranging investigation into election tampering in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where at least 33 members of parliament were arrested last week.
‘Paste on the ballot’
It also comes as the secretary of state has yet to commit to running for re-election, and a primary election could force him out of the 2016 presidential race.
The state’s population is almost 60% non-US citizen, but according to the chair of the state’s Board of Elections there are more than 400,000 voting-age non-US citizens registered in New York state who currently do not meet the eligibility requirement.
The Department of State made several comparisons to US voting laws and jurisdictions that allow non-US citizens to vote.
It found that the number of non-US citizens who may possibly be eligible to vote is much higher than in more than 30 other states, as well as counties throughout the US. The board compared the number of current non-US citizens — those listed as citizens in the US — to the percentage of eligible non-US citizens.
It noted that numerous other states allow non-US citizens to register to vote and cast absentee ballots — Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.
All of the states, however, issue voter registration forms that require a passport or other government-issued identifiability card to vote. The Department of State said the federal Department of Homeland Security lacks authority to make voting requiring ID a requirement for US citizens, so it could not recommend New York change its voter registration form.
The Department of State said a mistake occurred in the US National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which specifies that non-US citizens may only register to vote at the county level (not at the state level), and does not require the State Board of Elections to register any non-US citizens. The federal law also does not allow the state board to restrict who may vote.
The Department of State said it’s an issue that often surfaces in NY
It said a Department of Justice analysis found more than 1.5 million US citizens in NY state who are not yet eligible to vote.
The proposals would be open to review and analysis from state agencies, said Dariush Mozaffarian, executive director of the Board of Elections, in a letter sent to the state Board of Elections in December.
‘Right to vote’ amendment bill
Sen. Jeff Klein, a Democrat from New York City and co-chair of the Senate Republican and Independent Working Group, said in a statement that the Republican lawmakers were “blocking a package of bipartisan legislation that would expand voting access.”
He said the state senators “are politicizing the election process … just like they have done in the Legislature, with gridlock that denies New Yorkers more than 500 bill proposals.”
A bill that would have made New York state the 23rd state to allow voting by non-US citizens was sent to the New York Assembly in 2013, but then was tabled. The Senate passed the bill in February 2014, but the Democratic leadership in the Assembly blocked it, waiting for the Department of State’s executive guidance, says Newsday.