New York appeals court strikes down law allowing non-citizens to vote

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(The Center Square) — A New York City law that would allow noncitizens to vote in local elections is unconstitutional, according to a recent state appeals court ruling.

The 3-1 ruling by the Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department sided with Republicans who challenged the law, arguing that a clause in the state Constitution that “every citizen shall be entitled to vote” refers only to U.S. citizens.

The law pushed through the Democratic-controlled Legislature last year “must be declared null and void,” the appeals panel wrote in the 43-page decision.

“As there is no reference to noncitizens, and thus, an irrefutable inference applies that noncitizens were intended to be excluded from those individuals entitled to vote in elections,” the court said.

The proposal, challenged in court shortly after its approval, called for allowing green card holders and others living in New York City with federal work authorization to vote in local elections for offices including mayor and City Council.

The move was expected to add another 800,000 new eligible voters in New York City, which has a population of nearly 8.5 million.

Mayor Eric Adams’ administration defended the law and appealed a lower court’s ruling striking it down. It isn’t clear if Adams will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Supporters of the law, who argued it would make the city more inclusive and welcoming for legal immigrants, blasted the appeals court’s decision.

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, which supports allowing noncitizens to vote, called the legal challenge “another shameful attempt by xenophobic Republicans who would disenfranchise residents rather than promote a more inclusive and participatory democracy.”

“Immigrant New Yorkers deserve a say in how their local government functions and spends their tax money, and we remain committed to ensuring the expansion of voting rights,” he said in a statement.

But Republicans like New York Congressman Mike Lawler, who argued the law would lead to voter fraud and election chaos, praised the appellate panel’s ruling as “a win for the constitution, the rule of law and free and fair elections.”

“The right to vote should only be” afforded to United States citizens, and the attempt by NYC to circumvent that and allow noncitizen voting was wrong,” he said in a statement.

Another litigant, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-NY, called the ruling “a big victory in preserving both the integrity of our elections & the voice of American citizens!” in a statement.

Staten Island Borough President Vito Fosella echoed those sentiments, saying the New York State Constitution is “clear” that “only citizens can vote in our local elections.”

It is simply irresponsible and nonsensical to extend this right to noncitizens,” he said in a statement. “This is a win for New York citizens and upholds the integrity of our elections.”