NYC Council Appeals After Court Strikes Down Law Allowing ‘Noncitizens’ to Vote

Caden Pearson
By Caden Pearson
March 26, 2024New York
NYC Council Appeals After Court Strikes Down Law Allowing ‘Noncitizens’ to Vote
Empty voting booths are seen during Primary Election Day at PS 10 in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn borough in New York City on Aug. 23, 2022.(Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The New York City Council filed a notice of appeal on Monday, seeking to overturn a recent ruling that declared a 2022 law allowing “noncitizens” to vote in municipal elections as unconstitutional.

The appeal was filed with the state’s Supreme Court in a bid to reinstate the controversial legislation, Local Law 11, which has been challenged by Republican lawmakers since its inception.

“Empowering New Yorkers to participate in our local democratic process can only strengthen New York City by increasing civic engagement,” NYC council spokesperson Rendy Desamours said in a statement on Monday announcing the filing.

Last month, the Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department in New York upheld a lower court’s decision that deemed the law unconstitutional, dealing a blow to its Democrat and pro-illegal immigrant activist proponents of the law, which sought to create a new class of voters.

The law was passed by the NYC council in December 2021, but then-Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to sign or veto the bill before leaving office. Newly-elected Mayor Eric Adams also declined to sign or veto the bill within 30 days of its passage, and thereby, per state law, the legislation was deemed adopted in 2022.

Local Law 11 aimed to grant voting rights to an estimated 800,000 eligible “noncitizens” who hold certain visas and authorizations. It would create a new class of voters called “municipal voters” who could cast ballots in municipal elections for the offices of mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and council member.

Specifically, a so-called “municipal voter” would be defined as a person who is not a U.S. citizen and meets certain criteria, such as being a lawful permanent resident or authorized to work in the country, is a NYC resident for at least 30 days, and who would be eligible to register or pre-register to vote if they held U.S. citizenship.

However, the law has faced staunch opposition from Republican voters, officials, and lawmakers, including Staten Island Borough President Vito J. Fossella, NYC Council member Joe Borelli, and U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis. In January 2022, they challenged the legality of Local Law 11.

They successfully argued that the law would dilute the pool of U.S. citizens, given that noncitizens would make up 15 percent or more of the electorate in future elections under the law.

Their efforts culminated in a ruling by Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio in June 2022, which deemed the law in violation of state election laws that reserve voting rights exclusively for U.S. citizens.

Mr. Adams’ administration, which had been defending the law, immediately appealed Judge Porzio’s decision. Despite their efforts, the Supreme Court’s appellate division for the Second Judicial Department in New York rejected the appeal last month, affirming Judge Porzio’s ruling.

“We determine that this local law was enacted in violation of the New York State Constitution and Municipal Home Rule Law, and thus, must be declared null and void,” Associate Justice Paul wrote.

In taking the case further, Mr. Desamours said on Monday that the city’s filing with the appeals court seeks a decision on whether the law is “consistent with the State Constitution, Election Law, and the Municipal Home Rule Law.”

Activists from the Our City, Our Vote Coalition, who were interveners in the case, held a rally on the steps of City Hall on Monday to support the filing. Among the groups that joined the protest were members of the Chinese for Affirmative Action, MinKwon Center for Community Action, United Neighborhood Houses, The Black Institute, and city council members Shahana Hanif of District 39 and Alexa Aviles of District 38.

The NYC Council is doubling down on its defense of the law, arguing that noncitizens who are legally residing in the city should have the right to vote, given their contributions through taxes and community involvement.

The council’s filing follows a separate notice of appeal filed by attorneys from the nonprofit LatinoJustice law firm last Friday urging the State Court of Appeals to reverse Judge Porzio’s ruling.

Groups that advocate for illegal immigrants have welcomed these appeals being taken further.

Murad Awawdeh, president and CEO of the New York Immigration Coalition, said “immigrants are the backbone of New York’s economy,” but they lack enfranchisement to vote in local decision-making despite paying taxes.

“The Our City, Our Vote legislation was supposed to change that, by empowering nearly one million New Yorkers with permanent residence status or work authorizations the opportunity to vote in municipal elections,” he said in a statement on Monday.

However, critics, including Congresswoman Malliotakis, remain steadfast in their opposition to the law, citing concerns about election integrity and taxpayer expenditure on legal battles.

“There is nothing more important than protecting the integrity of our elections,” said Ms. Malliotakis last Friday after LatinoJustice filed its notice of appeal.

Ms. Malliotakis urged NYC to focus on the pressing needs of its residents, “who are facing so many quality of life and public safety issues,” instead of wasting taxpayer funds to pursue an appeal.

From The Epoch Times

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