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Civil Rights

Staten Island Justice Strikes Down New York City’s Noncitizen Voting Law

— June 28, 2022

Immigrant advocates have said they’re planning to appeal, claiming their opponents engaged in “venue shopping” to find the court more favorable to their argument.

A local law that would have allowed noncitizens to vote in New York City municipal elections has been stricken down by a Staten Island-based Supreme Court justice, who said the statute violated the state constitution.

According to The New York Times, the statute—passed by the New York City Council in December of last year—would have allowed more than 800,000 permanent legal residents and other persons with work authorization to cast ballots in mayoral and other local elections.

However, New York Supreme Court Justice Ralph J. Porzio found that the law conflicted with state constitutional guidelines as well as state law, both of which suggest that only United States citizens should be entitled to vote.

Porzio said that any decision to allow noncitizens to vote would have to be affirmed by a referendum.

“The New York State Constitution expressly states that citizens meeting the age and residency requirements are entitled to register and vote in elections,” Porzio wrote in his ruling. “There is no statutory ability for the City of New York to issue inconsistent laws permitting noncitizens to vote and exceed the authority granted to it by the New York State Constitution.”

'Place Mail-in Ballots Here' Toilet Display Leads to Police Call
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“Though voting is a right so many citizens take for granted, the City of New York cannot ‘obviate’ the restrictions imposed by the Constitution,” Porzio added.

Porzio’s decision has already been hailed by some conservatives, who felt that New York City overstepped by allowing noncitizens to vote—even if only in local elections.

“Today’s decision validates those of us who can read the plain English words of our State Constitution and state statutes,” said Joseph Borelli, a Republican city councilman from Staten Island. “Noncitizen voting in New York is illegal.”

Borelli, says The Gothamist, noted that many Democrats were also opposed to the city’s unusual law.

Despite some Democratic resistance, Borelli wrote, “progressives chose to ignore both our constitution and public sentiment in order to suit their aims. I commend this court in recognizing reality and reminding New York’s professional protester class that the rule of law matters.”

Nevertheless, immigrant advocates suggested that Porzio’s decision is anything but surprising, as it was filed in State Island, by far the most conservative of the city’s five boroughs.

“They went court shopping where they knew that the court would be favorable to them,” New York City Immigration Coalition head Murad Awawdeh told both The Gothamist and the New York Times.

“We’re going to keep fighting so that nearly one million New Yorkers who are building their lives here and investing in our communities can have a say in their local democracy,” he added.


Judge rules NYC municipal voting law for noncitizens violates state constitution

New York City’s Noncitizen Voting Law Is Struck Down

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