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NYC council asks state’s highest court to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections

The Council appealed the court's ruling on noncitizens voting in NYC
The Council appealed the court's ruling on noncitizens voting in NYC

The New York City Council asked the state’s highest court to strike down a pair of rulings in a move that would pave the way for noncitizen immigrants to vote in city elections.

The controversial election change, passed by the City Council in late 2021 and signed into law by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio, would have allowed 800,000 noncitizens with green cards to vote but was struck down as unconstitutional last month by an appellate court.

“Today’s filing to appeal the Second Department’s recent decision seeks a determination from the state’s highest court that the law is consistent with the State Constitution, Election Law, and the Municipal Home Rule Law,” said Rendy Desamours, spokesperson for the City Council.

The council argues the green card holders should be able to vote. Matthew McDermott
The council argues the green card holders should be able to vote. Matthew McDermott

“Empowering New Yorkers to participate in our local democratic process can only strengthen New York City by increasing civic engagement.”

The council has argued that noncitizens here legally should be able to vote since they pay taxes and make contributions to their community.

The case will now head to New York’s Court of Appeals.

“In plain English, the New York state constitution says only citizens have a right to vote in these elections,” said Staten Island President Vito Fossella, one of the lawmakers who filed the legal challenge. “The city council has no authority to do what they did.”

“We are going to be ready to do what we can,” he said, adding, “We are not surprised.”

Mayor Eric Adams, a co-defendant in previous court battles, did not join in on the challenge Monday.

The election change has been struck down twice. Gregory P. Mango
The election change has been struck down twice. Gregory P. Mango

Hizzoner has been quiet as of late about the law, known as Local Law 11, which was sponsored by former Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez (D-Washington Heights), who now serves as Adams’ commissioner of the Department of Transportation.

When he first took office, Adams said that allowing noncitizens to vote was the “best choice” after having initial concerns.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

News of the appeal comes just hours after advocates rallied outside City Hall in an attempt to gain support for the initiative from the mayor’s office and others in the Big Apple.

“Republicans think they can use the courts to disempower immigrant communities, and communities of color, from voting,” Taina Wagnac, a senior manager at the New York Immigration Coalition, said at the rally. “We have a chance for justice as we move forward with an appeal.”

The election law would only apply to those here legally with work authorizations. James Keivom
The election law would only apply to those here legally with work authorizations. James Keivom

The controversial law was challenged by a contingent of Republican politicians in January 2022, who argued the law was unconstitutional and would devalue the vote for citizen New Yorkers.

US Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), who represents Staten Island, celebrated the initial decision to block the law.

“There is nothing more important than preserving the integrity of our election system, and in today’s age, the government should be working to create more trust in our elections, not less,” the congresswoman said.

The appellate decision in February was the City Council’s second loss in court over the bill, following a Staten Island Supreme Court’s ruling against the law in 2022.

The timeline of the appeal still remains unclear.

The legal fight comes as asylum seekers have become a political flashpoint, expected to be a major issue on the minds of New York voters this November.