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Non-Citizen Voting Law Struck Down, Draws Strong Reaction From Queens Officials

Polling site at St. Sebastian’s school in Woodside (Queens Post)

June 28, 2022 By Christian Murray

A New York City law that extended voting rights to as many as 800,000 non-citizen New Yorkers was struck down by a Staten Island supreme court judge Monday—and Queens officials’ reactions were mixed.

The law, which was passed by the city council by a 33-14 margin in December, granted green card holders and residents authorized to work with the right to vote in municipal elections—such as for mayor, public advocate, comptroller and their local council member.

Supporters of the law argue that hundreds of thousands of immigrants pay taxes and should therefore have a say in who runs the city.

“We are disappointed by today’s ruling,” said Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, who also represents Jamaica and surrounding Queens neighborhoods. “The Council passed Local Law 11 to enfranchise nearly one million voters, many Black and brown New Yorkers, who live here, pay taxes, and contribute to our city. We are reviewing the ruling and exploring options for moving forward.”

The legislation, however, was ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio in response to a lawsuit brought by Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella and several mostly Republican officials.

In Queens, Republican Council Members Joann Ariola and Vickie Paladino signed onto the lawsuit, as well as Democrat Council Member Robert Holden. Holden was the only Democratic lawmaker to be a plaintiff in the suit.

Republican Council Members Joann Ariola and Vickie Paladino as well as Democrat Council Member Robert Holden have signed onto a lawsuit with leaders of the New York state Republican Party arguing that the new law is unconstitutional.

Republican Council Members Joann Ariola and Vickie Paladino as well as Democrat Council Member Robert Holden signed onto the lawsuit with leaders of the New York state Republican Party arguing that the new law is unconstitutional.

Holden, who represents Council District 30, told the Queens Post in January that he joined the lawsuit because “citizenship and suffrage have always been tied together for good reason, and must never be torn from each other.”

He also criticized a stipulation in the law that only requires noncitizens to live in the city for 30 days prior to a local election.

Following the ruling, Holden praised the decision.

“I applaud today’s court decision in favor of our bi-partisan lawsuit, affirming what we already knew: non-citizen voting in NY is a violation of law. It’s a victory for citizens’ rights and will encourage permanent residents to pursue citizenship and fully commit to our nation.”

But most representatives in Queens expressed disappointment in the wake of the ruling and are advocating for the case to be appealed.

“Today’s decision, to deny the right of almost one million immigrant New Yorkers to fully participate in our democracy, is shameful. We will stand firm with our immigrant communities as we appeal this ruling. Our voices will not be ignored,” said Councilmember Shekar Krishnan, who represents Jackson Heights and Elmhurst and was part of rally at City Hall Monday to denounce the Court’s decision.

Councilmember Julie Won, who represents western Queens, also criticized the ruling.

“Today’s ruling in a Staten Island court will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of immigrant New Yorkers that give so much love and labor to our city, pay taxes, and simply want to have a vote in our democracy,” she tweeted.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said the ruling would affect a large numbers of borough residents. Nearly half the residents of Queens were born outside the country.

“Today’s ruling is yet another attempt to further disenfranchise our immigrant neighbors and erase years of tireless advocacy to ensure our government is fully representative of the people it serves,” Richards said. “Our city is a stronger, fairer place when our immigrant communities are brought into the political process, allowing our diverse neighborhoods to fully exercise their power. I fully support any appeal of this ruling to a higher court.”

The lawsuit filed by the plaintiffs argued that the law violates Article 2, Section 1, of the state constitution, which grants the right to vote in all elections to “every citizen” 18 years of age or older.

Advocates for the bill, however, argued that the law was constitutional since it didn’t provide noncitizens with the right to vote in state or national elections.

The judge, however, agreed with the plaintiffs.

Justice Porzio said that the city can’t give noncitizens the right to vote since the state constitution holds that only “citizens” are eligible.  He also said the measure was also in violation of sections of the state’s Election Law and Municipal Home Rule Law.

Paladino celebrated the ruling and issued a statement on twitter.

“I’m very proud to announce our lawsuit against non-citizen voting in New York was successful. A huge thank you to minority leader Borelli for spearheading the effort, and the countless activists from all walks of life who helped make it happen. Chalk one up for common sense.”

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