On Monday, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) filed a federal lawsuit against the New York City Board of Elections for its foreign citizen voting law. Local Law 11, passed by the New York City Council in January, allows noncitizens the right to vote in the city’s municipal elections.
The lawsuit alleges that such an act violates the 15th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act because it was enacted with racist intent. PILF is suing on behalf of four black New York City voters: Phyllis Coachman, Deroy Murdock, Katherine James, and Anthony Gilhuys.
The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibit election legislation from being passed with racially discriminatory intent.
According to the lawsuit, Local Law 11’s sponsors passed the bill with the intent to increase the political power of some racial groups at the expense of others. Per U.S. Census data, the lawsuit says, of the approximately 1.3 million foreign nationals currently residing in the Big Apple, 495,000 are Hispanic and 348,000 are Asian. Thus, noncitizen voting will harm the voting strength of black Americans in New York City.
Evidence that the city council members knew of the effect this law would have on black New Yorkers is outlined in the lawsuit, as well as racist statements by the law’s sponsors.
“New York City Council members made explicit statements that race motivated this law,” PILF President J. Christian Adams said in a press release. “Election laws cannot have a racial motive. The 15th Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act prohibit any race-based voting restrictions. Our four plaintiffs, along with all the other black NYC voters are being harmed and discriminated against by New York City.”
While the law was struck down by a State Supreme Court judge in June, the city’s law department filed an appeal to the ruling in July. According to PILF spokeswoman Lauren Bowman, it is likely the lower court’s decision will be reversed. PILF’s lawsuit is separate, as it was filed in federal court and is explicitly about racial discrimination.