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‘Null And Void’: Court Declares New York City Law Letting Noncitizens Vote Is Unconstitutional

The court ruled in favor of NYC voters who warned the unconstitutional votes would ‘dilute the votes of United States citizens.’

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In a huge win for election integrity, a New York state appellate court struck down as unconstitutional a New York City law that would have allowed more than 800,000 noncitizens to vote in municipal elections. 

“We determine that this local law was enacted in violation of the New York State Constitution and Municipal Home Rule Law, and thus, must be declared null and void,” wrote Justice Paul Wooten of the 2nd Judicial Department in the 3-1 majority opinion.

The ruling effectively upholds a lower court’s decision to strike down the controversial law, by which the “sanctuary city” had “created a new class of voters eligible to vote in municipal elections consisting of individuals who are not United States citizens.” 

This week’s ruling was closely watched and celebrated by election integrity advocates nationwide. Among them was the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which has filed a similar federal lawsuit against the New York City Board of Elections. That complaint alleges the suspect law violated the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which ensures the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged … on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Public Interest Legal Foundation president J. Christian Adams said the ruling “marks an important step to stop foreign interference in New York City’s elections.”  

‘A Person Who Is Not a U.S. Citizen’

In December 2021, Gotham’s government passed a bill with the hefty title, “A Local Law to amend the New York city charter, in relation to allowing lawful permanent residents in New York city to vote in municipal elections.” It created a category of “municipal voters”who would be allowed to vote in elections for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and council member. 

A “municipal voter” was described as “a person who is not a United States citizen” but is a “lawful permanent resident or authorized to work in the United States,” has been a city resident for at least 30 consecutive days by the election, and “meets all qualifications for registering or pre-registering to vote under the election law, except for possessing United States citizenship.” 

The bill was submitted to former Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio, who declined to do anything with it before leaving office at the end of 2021. New Mayor Eric Adams likewise ignored it for 30 days within its passage, thus allowing it to become law. 

Adams was immediately sued by 16 New York City voters and the Republican National Committee. 

As the complaint notes, New York City boasts some 5 million active registered voters. Approximately 1 million adult noncitizens live in the city, “of which approximately 800,000 would be eligible to vote under the Local Law” in question. Noncitizens “could potentially make up 15% or more of the electorate in future elections,” the court noted, “which is greater than the margin of victory in many municipal elections.” The lawsuit asserted the law would “dramatically increas[e] the pool of eligible voters,” which “will dilute the votes of United States citizens.”

In her dissenting opinion, Judge Lilian Wan claimed that her appellate court colleagues have effectively barred New York municipalities “from deciding for themselves the persons who are entitled to a voice in the local electoral process.” She apparently forgot about the state and U.S. constitutions, which clearly make citizenship a requirement to be a voter. 

“The majority’s determination also disenfranchises nearly one million residents of the City, despite the fact that its people’s duly elected representatives have opted to enfranchise those same residents,” Wan argued. But it’s unclear how a resident could be disenfranchised if he does not meet the constitutional qualifications to vote to begin with.

“American elections should be decided by American citizens — full stop,” celebrated GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on X, formerly known as Twitter. “When the biggest city in America tried to let non-citizens vote in its elections, the RNC sued and beat them.”

‘Race was the Motivation’

In its lawsuit, the Public Interest Legal Foundation argues that New York City’s law would water down the voting strength of black Americans residing in the nation’s largest city. 

“Of the approximately 1 million foreign nationals in New York City, approximately 488,000 are Hispanic and 343,000 are Asian. The sponsors of the law were aware of this racial composition and passed the bill with the intent to increase the political power of some racial groups and decrease the power of others,” the foundation argues. 

The lawsuit cites comments by former New York City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez, who sponsored the bill, as proof of the illegal race-based motivations behind it. 

“Furthermore, in concluding his initial statement of support for this law, Council Member Rodriguez switched to Spanish and said the legislation was about increasing the power of Hispanics and Asians, as opposed to merely enhancing the voting power of foreign citizens,” an early filing of the lawsuit states.

“Because we as a city have decided that this city has changed the color of the skin of people coming to this city, then we change it who will be voting in this city,” Rodriguez said in 2021.

The PILF lawsuit, which is ongoing, argues that Rodriguez “crossed the bright line drawn by the Fifteenth Amendment and framed his support along racial lines.”

“The Public Interest Legal Foundation’s lawsuit shows that not only did this foreign citizen voting law violate New York’s laws but also the U.S. Constitution and Voting Rights Act,” Adams of the Public Interest Legal Foundation said. “Members of the New York City Council made explicit statements that race was the motivation behind this voting law. In America, we do not allow race-based voting restrictions.”

New York City may be the largest city pushing the noncitizen vote but it’s far from the only one.

A Washington D.C. law that allows noncitizens to vote in local elections is also being challenged in court. The Republican-controlled U.S. House passed a resolution overturning the D.C. law, but the Democrat-controlled Senate killed the action. Congress has power of oversight on the District of Columbia’s governance.

Leftists have pushed similar measures in Vermont, Maryland, and California, among others.


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