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New York Supreme Court Judge Strikes Down NYC Non-Citizen Voting Law

06-28-2022
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The city of New York can't let non-citizens vote for mayor and other city officials, a state Supreme Court judge ruled Monday, declaring the law unconstitutional. 

As CBN News reported, the controversial voting law was passed by the New York City Council in December allowing non-citizens to vote for the mayor, city council, comptroller, and the heads of the city's five boroughs. Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) had reservations about the city law, including questions about its legality, but took no action on it.

The law went into effect in January after NYC Mayor Eric Adams (D) allowed the legislation to become law without his signature. 

The law would have allowed non-citizens who have been lawful permanent residents of the city for at least 30 days, as well as those authorized to work in the U.S., including so-called "Dreamers", to participate in local elections. However, non-citizens still wouldn't be able to vote for president or members of Congress since those are federal races, or in the statewide NY elections that pick the governor, judges, and legislators.

The law's supporters said it gave an electoral voice to many people who have made a home in the city and pay taxes to it but face tough paths to citizenship. 

New York GOP Chair Nick Langworthy and several elected officials said the law violated provisions in the state constitution and state election law that specifically confer voting rights on citizens.

NY Judge: The City Cannot 'Obviate' the Restrictions Imposed by the Constitution

Staten Island Supreme Court Judge Ralph Porzio agreed that the state constitution did not allow non-citizens to vote. 

"The New York State Constitution expressly states that citizens meeting the age and residency requirements are entitled to register and vote in elections," Justice Ralph Porzio wrote, emphasizing the word citizens. "Though voting is a right so many citizens take for granted, the City of New York cannot 'obviate' the restrictions imposed by the Constitution."

"The New York State Constitution explicitly lays the foundation for ascertaining that only proper citizens retain the right to voter privileges," Porzio wrote. "It is this court's belief that by not expressly including non-citizens in the New York State Constitution, it was the intent of the framers for non-citizens to be omitted."

His ruling blocks the city from registering potentially more than 800,000 new voters who don't have U.S. citizenship.

Judge's Ruling Praised by Republicans, NYC May Appeal

Langworthy hailed the ruling as a "victory for citizen rights, election integrity, and the rule of law." He accused New York Democrats of abusing their leadership of the city and state governments to "illegally rig the system while trampling on citizen's rights."

New York State Assemblyman Michael Tannousis, a Republican who represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn, was among the state officials joining the lawsuit. 

"As the son of immigrants that came to this country legally and worked tirelessly to become citizens, I consider voting to be a sacred right bestowed on American citizens," Tannousis said in a statement. "The idea that a person can move to New York City and register to vote after 30 days is preposterous and ripe for fraud."

Immigrant rights advocates decried the ruling and were looking ahead to a potential appeal.

"The decision strikes at the core of our democracy and values as a city of immigrants," said Ahmed Mohamed, the legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations New York chapter.

The city said it was considering the next steps.

"This is a disappointing court ruling for people who value bringing in thousands more New Yorkers into the democratic process," the city Law Department said in a statement.

Some Municipalities Allow Non-Citizens to Vote in Local Elections

More than a dozen communities across the U.S. already allow noncitizens to cast ballots in local elections, including 11 towns in Maryland, two in Vermont, one in New York state, and San Francisco, California. 

Some states including Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, and Florida have adopted rules that would preempt any attempts to pass laws like the one in New York City.

In 1996, Congress passed a law prohibiting non-citizens from voting in federal elections, such as U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and presidential elections. The federal law does not address state or local elections, according to Ballotpedia. 

The law also carries the penalty of a fine, one year in prison, or both. 

Rubio Introduced Bill to Withhold Federal Funds from Cities That Allow Non-Citizens to Vote

As CBN News reported in December, just one day after the New York City Council voted to pass the questionable city ordinance, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio announced plans to introduce legislation to withhold federal funds from cities that permit people who are not citizens to vote.

"No city which allows non-U.S. citizens to vote should receive U.S. government funds," Rubio tweeted at the time. "Next week I am going to file a bill to make that the law."

The measure, S. 3403, or the "Protecting Our Democracy by Preventing Foreign Citizens from Voting Act" was introduced to the Senate on Dec. 15.  It has been referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, according to Congress.gov. 

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