On January 9, New York City adopted a new law allowing green card holders and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to vote in local elections, becoming the biggest municipality in the U.S. to enact such legislation. Conservative media have used this move as an opportunity to stoke anti-immigrant sentiments by misrepresenting the contents of the law. Additionally, right-wing voices are accusing Democrats of using immigrants to bolster their voting demographic, an argument that echoes the “great replacement” conspiracy theory which has become endemic in right-wing media.
Noncitizens who have resided in the city for 30 consecutive days will be allowed to vote in municipal elections starting in January 2023, but they are still barred from casting ballots in state and national level elections.
Immigration activists are praising the new law for expanding the democratic process to include an estimated 808,000 legally documented noncitizens, or 1 in 9 of New York City’s 7 million voting age residents. Executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition Murad Awawdeh called the step “the largest enfranchisement of New Yorkers in more than a century” and “a bold step forward in the fight for protecting and expanding democracy.” The concept of noncitizen voting is not new. Many jurisdictions with high immigrant populations are expanding or considering expanding local elections to include noncitizens, including Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and San Jose.
In line with their well-documented tirades against immigrants, conservative media are telling viewers that the new legislation will “dilute” the political power of citizens, invoking a number of ethnonationalist tropes. Coverage of New York City’s new law has teetered on promoting the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which is concerned about the orchestrated decline of white America as immigrant populations increase – a notion that right-wing media figures have openly embraced in the past.
Despite the New York City law’s potential to expand democratic principles, right-wing media are spinning the story to attack immigrants, warning viewers about the supposedly declining value of American citizenship. Here is what they are saying:
Right-wing figures accuse Democrats of changing voting laws to win elections
- On Outnumbered, discussing the law, Fox contributor Tomi Lahren said Democrats “want [immigrants] to be indebted to the Democrat party.” She called the law Democrats’ “backup plan because they are failing so miserably with legal citizens” and instead “need to import more voters.” Lahren also fearmongered that this law is only a “pilot program” that will eventually lead to Democrats “federalizing” elections.
- During an episode of OAN’s The Real Story, Natalie Harp claimed the New York City law is evidence of Democrats rigging elections, saying, “New York is doing the same thing, where they have noncitizens can vote now. This is something that they're moving forward with. We knew they were pushing for underage voters, felons. They really are trying to mobilize a different subset of people that shouldn't be allowed to vote, or at least have never been allowed to vote before, but that’s the only way they win, through changing the rules, through changing who votes.”
- The Federalist contributor Elad Hakim appeared on OAN’s Tipping Point and alleged that the New York law “can really dilute the strength or the power of a citizen” as well as “cheapens … the whole notion of elections.” Hakim also attributed the measure to a supposed belief of Democrats that an open border and “placing people sporadically throughout the country … equals votes.”
- On OAN’s Real America, host Dan Ball also accused Democrats of changing laws and cheating because they “can’t win elections legitimately,” which Ball called part of “Democrats’ playbook.”
- During an appearance on Tipping Point, president of the New York Young Republicans Club Gavin Wax claimed that New York Democrats were attempting to “cement [their] power for the next few decades by expanding the right to vote for illegals." Wax said that this was part of the Democrats’ “long game” to maintain “their control for another generation.”
Right-wing media use bigoted rhetoric, extreme language to critique the measure
- Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade appeared on an episode of Outnumbered, slamming the New York City law and suggesting that immigrants who “don’t belong here,” “snuck into this country,” and “don’t know the language” should not be able to vote.
- During Fox News Primetime, Fox & Friends Weekend co-host Rachel Campos-Duffy falsely claimed that undocumented residents, whom she referred to by the slur “illegals,” would be able to vote through the new law and fearmongered that enfranchising noncitizens would “devalue citizenship” and likened the move to “open borders.”
- While the law was still in the proposal phase, Rachel Campos-Duffy called noncitizen voting “one of the most dangerous ways of undermining our democracy and the meaning of citizenship."
Right-wing media spread misinformation about the new law
- On his radio show, Fox News host Sean Hannity falsely claimed that New York City is granting individuals who are “here illegally” the right to vote legally, which he said is part of the Biden administration’s “preferential treatment” toward immigrants.
- On In Focus, One America News host Stephanie Hamill made an incorrect clarification during an interview with Rep. Pat Fallon (R-TX), in which Hamill falsely claimed that noncitizens can vote in “state, not federal elections.”
- Dan Ball overstated the number of noncitizens eligible to begin voting in 2023 by 100,000, claiming that the new law “will allow nearly 900,000, we’re told, noncitizens to vote in New York City’s elections.”
- One America News correspondent Caitlin Sinclair claimed that allowing noncitizens to vote would “allow those who are green card holders, DACA recipients, or really otherwise anyone in the country illegally to participate in municipal elections.“ She also said the measure would be “diluting the voices of the city’s 5.6 million voters.” Later in the segment, she posed the question that if Democrats actually cared about democracy, “wouldn’t they encourage immigrants to strive toward American citizenship and not just cheapen it by throwing out measures like this?”