Polanco Politics: Say No to NonCitizen/Resident Voting

The issue of noncitizen voting has been in the news in recent days and has become an issue in the NY-11 congressional race in Staten Island/Brooklyn. To better educate our readers, The Bronx Chronicle invited attorneys and CUNY professors Juan Carlos Polanco and Hector Soto to debate the issue.

NonCitizen Voting Is A Non-Starter

by J.C. Polanco, Esq.

Capture_J C Polanco_2015First, the Council removes ICE from Rikers; then bars the NYPD from reporting on legal status of criminals, and last year approved municipal identification cards for undocumented immigrants providing as little proof as a birth certificate. You’d think that after the 2001-03 fiasco involving Mexican consular identification cards (i.e., Matricula Consular) and the thousands of criminals who took advantage of that weak system, city leaders would have shelved this dangerous program. Now comes the latest reckless left wing idea that disregards the rights, privileges and uniqueness of U.S. citizenship — allowing noncitizen/resident voting in City elections.

Our electoral system is a complex labyrinth of federal, state and local laws that range from the arcane and inefficient to the incongruent. Our system attempts to balance two constitutions, a city charter and a media-driven political agenda. I should know; I was the there.

As a former city Board of Elections (BOE) commissioner I oversaw elections in the largest city in our nation. With over 4.6 million voters already on the rolls, adding an estimated of 1 million more new noncitizen voters to the rolls would be costly and disasterous. The strain on the Board of Elections’ infrastructure, technology and staff would be grievous.

Imagine the 2012 presidential election with another one million voters on the rolls.  The registration system as presently designed is unable to accommodate such a enormous increase in voters. Many more dozens of disabilities-compliant poll sites, voting machines and thousands of workers, and enforcement personnel would need to be added. And how can the BOE do that if they can’t ask for ID? Oh wait. That’s a whole other topic.

Supporters argue that allowing this plan would increase voter participation in a city where turnout has been dismal — as low as 19% in some parts of the city during our last statewide election. The Bronx finished dead last in voter turnout.

If the so-called progressives in the City Council sincerely desire to increase voter turnout (which I seriously doubt) then they should seriously consider joining over 20 States and municipalities in ending party primaries and moving to either open primaries or nonpartisan elections. According to latest NYS BOE report, less than 25% of voters turned out in our last Mayoral and Gubernatorial elections. Sadly of the 4.6 million registered voters in New York City about 1.5 million are barred from voting in party primary elections where the winners are always assured of winning the November General Election. It’s this lack of competitive general elections that has probably dampened voter enthusiasm.

Lastly, the value of citizenship and how it’s acquired should matter. Voting is and should always remain a right of legal citizens. It is the one activity that unites all fully vested American citizens. And let’s face it, allowing noncitizen voting will favor, almost exclusively, Democrats.  With 99% of all local elections decided in closed Democratic primary elections, these immigrant voters will gravitate to the party that pushed for this agenda.

Voter education like the one Bronx Democratic Party Chairman Marcos Crespo is spearheading where adult voter take their children to the polls would inculcate civic awareness, inspire young people and energize turnout in the future.  But simply disregarding the importance of acquiring U.S, citizenship to score political points and an electoral advantage for Democrats is clearly New York City politics as usual.

Juan Carlos “J.C.” Polanco, a former Bronx Commissioner and President of the NYC Board of Elections, is an attorney, the NYC Regional Director for the State Assembly Minority Leader and teaches at the City University of New York. J.C. appears regularly on NY1 Inside City Hall, Pura Politica, CNN, Fox News, Bronxnet Open and Univision 41.