New York City's City Council approved a measure in January to give non-citizens the right to vote in local elections. But after a suit was brought by the GOP lawmakers, the New York Supreme Court ruled that no, non-citizens do not have the right to vote.
The plan would have added some 800,000 New Yorkers to the voting rolls, and would have allowed them to vote for mayor, public advocate, city council, borough presidents, and school boards.
Justice Ralph Porzio said that the law was in direct violation of the New York 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," he said.
"Though voting is a right so many citizens take for granted, the City of New York cannot 'obviate' the restrictions imposed by the Constitution," Porzio continued, going on to say that "the weight of the citizens’ vote will be diluted by municipal voters and candidates and political parties alike will need to reconfigure their campaigns."
The bill allowed non-citizens to register in political parties and vote in local elections if they hold green cards or have working visas. The only additional requirement for non-citizens is that they have been residents of New York City for a mere 30 days.
In striking down the law, Porzio said that "Though Plaintiffs have not suffered harm today, the harm they will suffer is imminent." The bill was slated to go into effect for the 2023 election year.
Outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio was not in favor of the measure, but agreed to sign the law anyway. Current Mayor Eric Adams was on board with the bill, saying that while the bill might not be legal, green card holders should get the vote. The idea was that because they were impacted by local leaders, and were being taxed, they should also vote, despite that being a right only for US citizens.
The bill was touted by immigrant activists as necessary, because those immigrant non-citizens pay taxes and should therefore be permitted to vote.
Staten Island City Councilman Joe Borelli said of the ruling that:
"Today's decision validates those of us who can read the plain English words of our state constitution and state statutes: Noncitizen voting in New York is illegal, and shame on those who thought they could skirt the law for political gain. Opposition to this measure was bipartisan and cut across countless neighborhood and ethnic lines, yet progressives chose to ignore both our constitution and public sentiment in order to suit their aims. I commend the court in recognizing reality and reminding New York's professional protestor class that the rule of law matters."
Borelli had opposed the bill at the time, saying that "Someone who has lived here for 30 days will have a say in how we raise our taxes, our debt and long-term pension liabilities. These are things people who are temporary residents should not have a say in."
Activists claimed that the measure to expand voting rights to non-citizens would be a message to the rest of the country. "It’s important for the Democratic Party to look at New York City and see that when voting rights are being attacked, we are expanding voter participation," said the bill's sponsor Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.