NY Court Strikes Down Law That Let Noncitizens Vote in Local Elections
NY Court Strikes Down Law That Let Noncitizens Vote in Local Elections

By Tom Ozimek

A state appeals court on Feb. 21 declared as unconstitutional a New York City law permitting noncitizen voting in local elections—a victory for election integrity advocates and opponents of the legislation who mounted a legal challenge.

“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,” reads the ruling, which was issued on Feb. 21 by the Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department of the Supreme Court of the State of New York.

The law, dubbed “Our City, Our Vote,” was approved in December 2021 by the Democrat-controlled New York City Council, opening the door to allowing some 800,000 documented noncitizens with federal work authorizations to vote in all New York City municipal elections, including for mayor.

‘Expanding Voting Rights’ vs. ’Dangerous and Un-American’

Progressive Democrats, who championed the law, argued that it would make U.S. politics more inclusive by allowing immigrants without citizenship to vote.

Former New York Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez, a Democrat who co-sponsored the bill, told The Nation back in the summer of 2021 that, at its most basic level, the consequence of the measure “is that we’re going to be expanding voting rights.”

Opponents of the bill, chiefly New York Republicans, vowed to take the measure to court if it were to pass, arguing that it would undermine the integrity of elections and that it unconstitutionally diluted the power of U.S. citizens’ votes.

“We pledge action, any means necessary … to stop this dangerous legislation undermining our elections,” then-state Republican Chairman and now Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-N.Y.) told a press conference in December 2021, just days before the bill passed.

“We will pursue every legal action to see that this dangerous law is struck down,” he said. “Besides being bad policy, it’s unconstitutional, it’s dangerous and un-American.”

Soon after the legislation became law in January 2022, it was challenged in court by Mr. Langworthy and a handful of other plaintiffs. Months later, the law was struck down.

Justice Ralph Porzio, of the New York State Supreme Court for Staten Island, ruled that the “Our City, Our Vote” legislation violated the state Constitution, which states that “every citizen” is entitled to vote.

However, New York Mayor Eric Adams’s administration defended the law and appealed the lower court ruling.

The appeals court decision has dealt a blow to those efforts. It’s unclear whether Mr. Adams’ office intends to file an appeal.

“Great news! We won in the appellate court and @NYCMayor’s attempt to implement the law to register noncitizens to vote in #NYC elections has been struck down,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“This is a big victory in preserving both the integrity of our elections & the voice of American citizens.”

The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) filed a similar federal lawsuit, alleging that the noncitizen voting law violated the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act because, as the group claims, “it was passed with clear racial intent.”

“This ruling marks an important step to stop foreign interference in New York City’s elections,” PILF President J. Christian Adams said in a statement following the Feb. 21 ruling.

“Members of the New York City Council made explicit statements that race was the motivation behind this voting law. In America, we do not allow race-based voting restrictions.”

While there are laws that prohibit noncitizens from voting in federal elections, there are no such specific prohibitions in state constitutions.

However, there are eight states that have laws stipulating that noncitizens may not vote in state and local elections: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio—and, now, New York.

A proposal recently introduced in the Kentucky House of Representatives seeks to make it the ninth state to prohibit noncitizen voting.

Noncitizen Appointed to Election Commission

While the noncitizen suffrage movement continues to be debated, an elections commission in California broke new ground recently by appointing a noncitizen to serve as an official.

The San Francisco Elections Commission on Feb. 14 unanimously appointed Kelly Wong, a noncitizen from Hong Kong, to serve on the commission.

Ms. Wong, who can’t legally vote in federal elections, is allowed to hold the position because a 2020 measure removed citizenship requirements to serve on San Francisco city boards, commissions, and advisory bodies.

Predictably, Ms. Wong’s appointment was met with mixed reactions, with some hailing the move as inclusive and expanding political representation to immigrants, while others denounced it as part of a progressive agenda to undermine the privileges of citizenship.

Melanie Sun contributed to this report.

USNN World News (USNN) USNN World News Corporation is a media company consisting of a series of sites specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information, local,...