Immigrants To Vote At Mock Elections

BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Staff Writer

While registered voters will take to the polls on Tuesday, immigrants will have the opportunity to take part in mock elections.

New York Coalition to Expand Voting Rights, Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Queens Community House and other elected officials have partnered to host a mock election on Nov. 5, from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. at the Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights, to highlight the plight of nearly one million immigrant New Yorkers unable to vote in local elections.

Nonresident citizens, more than 1.3 million, contribute to New York City by paying billions in annual taxes, but are currently denied the right to vote in City elections.

Since 55 percent of the neighborhood’s residents are currently ineligible to vote, Dromm said voting is important for jobs, City services and a sense of belonging.

“The majority rules with protection for the minority,” Dromm said. “If people are working, paying taxes and living in our neighborhoods, they should have the opportunity to participate in municipal elections.”

The action is part of the campaign’s strategy to encourage City leaders to enact Intro 410, a bill introduced in 2010 that would expand municipal voting rights to all legal residents of the City. The measure currently has the support of over 30 council members.

“Voting embodies the principles of equality and fairness upon which our democracy is based,” Dromm previously said, who is also chair of the Council’s Immigration Committee and is the chief sponsor of the bill.

While six towns in Maryland allow some form of democratic participation for immigrants, Dromm said “everybody should have a voice in municipal elections.”

Dromm said voting would make immigrants more politically-engaged because they have much to say about their local schools, healthcare, housing, parks, transportation, social services, jobs and economic development.

“When all contributing members of our society can participate, democracy is better served, and everyone benefits,” Dromm said. “The fact that more than half the NYC Council now supports immigrant voting rights marks a momentous opportunity for us to emphasize the growing support for the expansion of democracy throughout New York City.”

Annetta Seecharran, director of policy and advocacy for the United Neighborhood Houses, a non-profit association of settlement houses that have served immigrants in the City for more than 100 years, echoed similar sentiments.

“United Neighborhood Houses is keenly aware of the fundamental role immigrants play in the functioning of the City’s economy as well as forming the base of its cultural vibrancy,” she said.

“At a time when voting rights are being attacked and scaled back around the nation, New York City has the opportunity to instead expand the franchise to a voiceless body of New Yorkers- legal residents that work and pay taxes in the City, but are not afforded a voice in the election of their local and City leaders,” Seecharran said.

The Plaza, located at 74th Street and 37th Road, will contain voting stations with mock ballots, ballot boxes and other visuals. The mock ballots will be printed in five languages, just as the New York City Board of Elections will, in English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Bengali.

On that same day, Dromm will host a press conference with other elected officials in support of the measure at the Diversity Plaza at 11 a.m.

Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, tsakhuja@queenstribune.com, or @Tsakhuja13.