This summary about New York City’s noncitizen voting law was featured in Documented’s Early Arrival newsletter. You can subscribe to receive it in your inbox three times per week here.
Supporters of New York City’s noncitizen voting law are moving forward with a strategy to overcome a New York Supreme Court’s invalidation of the law.
The first step is appealing the decision, said Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, which is working with the defending legal team to submit an appeal when the court reopens in September. That will likely result in the law’s reimplementation as it works its way through the courts.
Despite advocates’ optimism, the ruling is still a major stumbling block: Republican Justice Ralph J. Porzio ruled on Monday that the New York noncitizen voting law violates the state constitution, its election law, and its municipal home rule law.
The only way to give noncitizens the right to vote in city elections, he wrote, is through a voter referendum.
Judge’s ruling demands the constitution be interpreted exactly as its framers intended: “By not expressly including noncitizens in the New York State constitution, it was the intent of the framers for noncitizens to be omitted,” he wrote.
Phillip Yan Hing Wong, the president of Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York, agrees. He is one of the two plaintiffs in the lawsuit who are not Republican government officials, but rather are presented as naturalized residents and citizens. The other person is Veralia Malliotakis, the mother of Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican congress member from Staten Island. The lawmaker is known for a 2016 lawsuit she filed against destroying the information undocumented folks use to obtain IDNYC cards.
“I know for a fact that when I had my green card, I am not a citizen. That word is well defined,” Wong, who is also known for filing a lawsuit opposing the plan to reform New York’s high school admissions testing, told Documented.
Proponents “may want to change the meaning of the word citizen to include green card holders but that is not the way to do it. Changing a New York City Law is not the way to do it,” he continued.“I myself [would be] a victim of the system if noncitizens…will get to vote,” he said.
His argument underscores plaintiffs’ claims that the value of their votes will be “diluted” if new voters are added.
Immigrant advocacy groups oppose the decision: “Folks who pay taxes or [are] raising their families here should have a voice in how our city functions from how the trash gets picked up to the quality of their local schools and parks,” said Awawdeh of the New York Immigration Coalition.
The court’s decision was somewhat predictable, he said, as the opposition picked a court that they knew would be favorable to them: a Supreme Court in Staten Island — where most of the republican plaintiffs head districts.
“We believe on appeal, we will win,” Awawdeh said. “The state constitution doesn’t say ‘only citizens’ it says ‘citizens’,” can vote, he added. “And we believe that is the floor, not the ceiling, of who can be enfranchised to vote in the state of New York.”
Other states, including Maryland and Vermont, are considering legislation that would allow noncitizens some local voting rights. In San Francisco, noncitizens can vote in school board elections. Up until after 2003, New York City public-school parents could vote for the school board too, regardless of immigration status.
Thoughts on how the appeal of the Our City Our Vote law will go? Reply to this mail.
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