William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.
Is the New York City Council out of its mind?
It's planning to pass legislation to allow noncitizens to vote in city and municipal elections, according to news reports. The measure has so much support in the Council, according to its advocates, that it will be passed with a veto-proof majority -- that is, Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be unable to stop the bill, which he opposes, from becoming law (although it may not be legal under the state constitution anyway, as Bloomberg has asserted).
After that, noncitizens living here legally will have exactly the same say over the affairs of New York City as citizens -- a single vote.
Does that seem normal to you? Because I think it's utter insanity. Would any American expect the right to vote in Moscow or Buenos Aires?
Voting rights would be given to any city resident in the country lawfully, a green-card holder for example. That number would dramatically swell if comprehensive immigration reform, which I support, passes in Washington. Identification would be required only the first time noncitizens vote.
I have nothing against noncitizens -- I'm happy they want to be here -- but I don't think they should have an equal say about the direction our government takes. What's the point of being a citizen then?
This is a quick and slippery slope to voting in federal elections. Advocates of municipal voting for noncitizens are arguing it under the premise of no taxation without representation. If that is accepted for local elections, expect the argument to begin soon after for federal races.
The push in the City Council isn't a groundswell movement coming from undocumented immigrants; it's being quarterbacked by, among others, radical CUNY professor Ron Hayduk, an editorial board member of the journal Socialism and Democracy and an ardent supporter of the Occupy movements. Haydek was part of the team that crafted the City Council legislation.
Here's what Hayduk told Talking Points Memo about the bill this week:
"It would send a big message to the rest of the country and embolden campaigns which are ongoing in other places like San Francisco, and Portland, Maine, and Washington, D.C., and other places. It would certainly be viewed favorably by immigrants' rights advocates and be seen by other policymakers as another level of discussion about the whole business of the role of immigrants in the United States."
On that, Hayduk is absolutely right. This would, indeed, prompt "another level of discussion about the whole business of the role of immigrants in the United States." And it would erase the most meaningful line between citizens and noncitizens in the five boroughs.
Reports of this supposed fait accomplis legislation were met with relatively tame remarks from most of the New York City mayoral candidates, who are clearly afraid of being labeled "anti-immigrant" or "anti-Hispanic" if they speak out too strongly. Interestingly, the strongest condemnation came from a Latino, former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., who said the legislation left him "speechless." "Being a citizen of the U.S. is a privilege that carries with it an awesome and sacred responsibility -- the right to vote. If we water that down, we are essentially removing one of the building blocks of our democracy, let alone violating state law," he said.
It's yet to be seen if any of the other candidates have the nerve to really fight this thing.
Former New York City Parks Commissioner Henry Stern once observed that the difference between a rubber stamp and the New York City Council is that a rubber stamp leaves a mark.
That was in the good old days.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.