A New York City judge on Monday struck down a landmark law extending the right to vote in local elections to noncitizen immigrants who live, work and pay taxes in the city.
Richmond County Supreme Court Judge Ralph Porzio said in a ruling issued in Staten Island that Local Law 11, passed by the New York City Council late last year, violated the state constitution.
“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 the 13-page ruling.
“Though voting is a right so many citizens take for granted, the City of New York cannot ‘obviate’ the restrictions imposed by the Constitution,” he added.
The ruling negates an action taken by the City Council in December, when it voted 33-14 with two abstentions to approve Local Law 11 allowing noncitizens to vote in elections for positions such as mayor, city council and comptroller among others.
It was specifically crafted to not extend to state or federal elections in a bid to pass constitutional muster. But Porzio, a Republican Supreme Court judge who was elected in 2018, agreed with a legal challenge brought by a group of primarily Republican opponents, including Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella and state GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy.
When the measure was approved, immigrant advocates and other supporters hailed Local Law 11 as a landmark measure which would force political candidates to respond to the concerns of tax-paying immigrants as well to those of higher-income voters.
They argued that while the state Constitution states that “every citizen shall be entitled to vote,” it doesn’t say explicitly that only citizens can vote and that the language should be interpreted as a “floor” rather than a “ceiling.”
Both former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and current mayor Eric Adams, while saying they backed expanded voting rights for noncitizen taxpayers, had expressed reservations about the scope of the City Council’s authority in the matter.
The New York Immigrant Coalition said Porzio’s ruling came as “no surprise” and vowed an appeal to the state’s top court.
“The Republican opponents to the law specifically placed their lawsuit in a court they knew would be favorable to them,” coalition executive director Murad Awawdeh said in a statement. “We remain firm in our certitude that municipal voting is legal and plan to support the appeal of this judge’s decision. We refuse to allow today’s verdict to further the disenfranchisement of Black and brown communities in New York City.”
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