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HomeGeneralRepublicans Jubilate as Court Overturns New York City Law Allowing Immigrants to...

Republicans Jubilate as Court Overturns New York City Law Allowing Immigrants to Vote

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Source: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg

In a landmark decision, a state appeals court in New York has ruled a New York City law allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections unconstitutional. This verdict is a triumph for Republican officials who contested the law in court, marking a significant development in the ongoing debate over voting rights.

Associate Justice Paul Wooten of the Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department delivered the ruling on Wednesday, asserting that the local law was enacted in violation of the New York State Constitution and the Municipal Home Rule Law. As a result, the law has been declared null and void.

The contentious legislation, passed in 2022, aimed to extend voting rights in local elections to green card holders and other non-citizens residing in New York City with federal work authorization.

However, its implementation was immediately met with legal challenges, preventing it from taking effect. Advocates, primarily progressive Democrats, argued that the “Our City, Our Vote” bill would enhance political representation and foster inclusivity for immigrants. Conversely, opponents, mainly Republicans, raised concerns about potential voter fraud and logistical challenges.

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Joe Borelli, Council Republican leader and one of the plaintiffs who opposed the law, expressed satisfaction with the court’s decision, deeming the case straightforward. He emphasized that the law contradicted provisions in the state constitution and municipal law.

The appellate court’s ruling upheld a lower court’s previous decision, invalidating the law several months after its enactment. The court found that the law violated the state constitution’s provision granting voting rights exclusively to citizens and the Municipal Home Rule Law, which mandates that election changes be approved through a voter referendum.

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Critics of the ruling, such as the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), denounced it as regressive and discriminatory. Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director of NYIC, condemned the lawsuit as a “shameful attempt by xenophobic Republicans” to disenfranchise residents and undermine democracy.

While non-citizen voting remains uncommon in the United States, a burgeoning movement advocates for its legalization. Washington, D.C., has already permitted non-citizens to vote despite legal challenges. 

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Similarly, a San Francisco court upheld a similar law in 2023. Moreover, several Vermont cities, including Burlington, have recently allowed legal residents to participate in local elections.

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Despite the setback in New York City, proponents of non-citizen voting continue to push for expanding voting rights and promoting inclusivity in local governance. The court’s ruling underscores the ongoing tension between inclusivity and tradition in electoral politics, highlighting the importance of legal interpretation and constitutional principles in shaping the democratic process.

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