New York City Council Asks State Supreme Court to Allow Non-Citizens to Vote in Local Elections

The New York City Council has urged the state’s highest court to nullify two rulings, aiming to open the doors for noncitizen immigrants to participate in city elections.

The controversial election change, approved by the City Council in late 2021 and endorsed into law by former Mayor Bill de Blasio, sought to grant voting rights to 800,000 noncitizens possessing green cards. However, it was deemed unconstitutional and overturned by an appellate court last month.

“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.

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

The council contends that legal noncitizens should have the right to vote since they contribute taxes and play an active role in their communities.

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 didn’t.”

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

Mayor Eric Adams, who was previously involved as a co-defendant in legal disputes, chose not to participate in the challenge on Monday.

The mayor has been relatively silent recently regarding Local Law 11, sponsored by former Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez (D-Washington Heights), who currently holds the position of commissioner of the Department of Transportation under Mayor Adams.

Upon assuming office, Adams initially 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.

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The announcement of the appeal emerges just hours after advocates gathered outside City Hall, rallying to garner support for the initiative from the mayor’s office and other influential figures 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.”

A group of Republican politicians mounted a challenge against the controversial law in January 2022, asserting that it was unconstitutional and would diminish the devalue the vote for citizen New Yorkers.

Representing Staten Island, US Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) celebrated the initial ruling that halted the implementation of 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,” she said.

The appellate ruling in February marked the City Council’s second defeat in court regarding the bill, following a prior judgment from the Staten Island Supreme Court against the law in 2022.

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By Hunter Fielding
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