Why not allow noncitizens who live in Scarsdale to participate in the nominating process for village leadership?
A voting rights advocate posed this question at the League of Women Voters meeting in Scarsdale Monday. We think it’s time to give the issue serious consideration.
Each November, an election is held to fill 10 seats on the 30-member Citizens Nominating Committee (CNC), which is charged with recruiting and vetting candidates to run on the Citizens’ Nonpartisan Party slate for mayor and trustees.
Every year the CNC election turnout is small and there are several uncontested slots on the CNC ballot, which is supposed to be fully contested with at least two candidates for each vacant position, according to the resolution that governs the CNC.
One wonders why more residents don’t run for a seat on the committee and why more people don’t vote.
The citizenship requirement is one obstacle.
The village’s mayoral and trustee elections are covered by New York State election law and the Board of Elections restricts voter eligibility to citizens of the United States. But the CNC is a caucus that recruits volunteers to run for a seat on the committee. It is not a governing body, and therefore, it’s not subject to New York State election laws.
The CNC’s voter eligibility requirements could be remade to suit the local situation. Noncitizen Scarsdale taxpayers, many of whom are longtime residents raising their children here, don’t have a say in local elections. But they could.
Scarsdale’s CNC is governed by a nonpartisan resolution, which was created nearly 100 years ago to promote a system that would avoid the electioneering and campaign promises of partisan politics. The resolution has been revised by public referendum at least 40 times since its inception.
The resolution should be revised again to allow all residents, regardless of citizenship, to vote in their neighborhood CNC election. Those who live here and pay taxes like everyone else based on property ownership should have representation in village affairs.
This is a wake-up call to Scarsdale residents who are not U.S. citizens: You have taxation without representation. But thanks to Scarsdale’s unique system, it doesn’t have to be that way. You could help pick your neighborhood representatives who will serve on the committee that selects candidates to run for village office.
Changing CNC voter eligibility to include noncitizens will expand participation and voter turnout.
And while Scarsdale is fortunate to have many volunteers participating in many organizations in the village, changing the citizenship requirement would also help boost the CNC candidate pool.
According to CNC Procedure Committee chairman Madelaine Eppenstein, the citizenship issue is being considered, but this year there were too many other amendments to advance.
In November, voters approved 12 significant changes to the CNC, including a move to relieve the TVCC of the responsibility to appoint the committee’s nonvoting chairman and vice chairman.
Responding to the league’s previous recommendations, the CNC Procedure Committee is also working on a simplified procedure manual, which, according to Eppenstein, will guide the committee as a living document — like the nonpartisan resolution — that can be changed and amended.
The next village election takes place in March, with a Citizens’ Nonpartisan Party slate and probably a Voters Choice Party slate. You have to be a resident and a citizen to vote in that election. But changing the CNC resolution to allow participation by Scarsdale residents who don’t happen to be citizens but have lived here for decades would invigorate the system, increase participation and allow more of our neighbors to enjoy civic engagement.