Adams administration appeals Richmond County court ruling striking down non-citizen voting law

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City Council Member Shahana Hanif (D – Brooklyn) at rally calling for more funding for immigrants in city budget on City Hall steps. Thursday, June 9, 2022.
Photo by Ethan Stark-Miller

Mayor Eric Adams’ administration Friday appealed a Richmond County Supreme Court decision last month that struck down a law granting the city’s roughly 800,000 non-citizens voting rights, which had been on the books for just seven months.

The city Law Department began the process to appeal the court’s move that threw out the law – dubbed “Our City, Our Vote” or Local Law 11 –  Friday morning by filing a notice of appeal

“This appeal continues the city’s commitment to vigorously defend the law,” Law Department spokesperson Nicholas Paolucci told PoliticsNY in an emailed statement.

Soon after news of the appeal – first reported by the news site Gothamist – broke, City Council Member Shahana Hanif (D-Brooklyn), who’s been a strong advocate for the law, applauded the city’s action on Twitter, saying “The Fight isn’t over.” 

In a statement to PoliticsNY, Hanif’s council colleague Pierina Sanchez (D-Bronx) said Our City, Our Vote is about giving immigrant New Yorkers who live and pay taxes here the Democratic voice they deserve.

“Our city is about empowering immigrant New Yorkers,” Sanchez said. “Our immigrant neighbors are essential to the fabric of this city. They earn their living here, pay taxes here, and send their children to schools here. They invest in and rely on the health and stability of our city and institutions and deserve a say in its stewardship. They deserve to have a say in  municipal elections. I applaud the city for filing an appeal in favor of enfranchising over one million New Yorkers, and I am confident justice for our immigrant community will prevail.”

Richmond County Supreme Court Ralph Porzio struck down the law late last month, on grounds that it violated the state constitution. The ruling followed a suit from a group of Staten Island-based Republican lawmakers who argued allowing the city’s non-citizens to vote would force them to change the way they campaign for elected office. Led by Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella, the plaintiffs included U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis and City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli.

At the time, Malliotakis and Borelli both celebrated Our City, Our Vote getting tossed out saying it diluted the voice of American citizens and violated already existing laws.

“I stand with the vast majority of New Yorkers who are pleased to see the court strike down Democrats’ shameful attempt to dilute the voices of American citizens by allowing non-citizens to vote,” Malliotakis said last month. “The government should be working to create more trust in our elections, not less.”

Our City, Our Vote was passed by the City Council late last year and became law in January after a 30-day waiting period where it wasn’t signed or vetoed by Adams or his predecessor Bill de Blasio. It afforded all non-citizens – green card holders and those here on temporary work visas – who lived in the city for at least 30 days the right to vote in municipal elections. That includes races for mayor, city comptroller, public advocate and City Council.

In a statement, New York Immigration Coalition said Executive Director Murad Awawdeh said his organization is ready to continue fighting to have the non-citizen voting law reinstated.

“As expected, the city has appealed the Richmond County Supreme Court’s politically motivated ruling overturning the Our City, Our Vote law,” Awawdeh said. “We are ready and eager to continue defending the right for nearly one million New Yorkers to have a voice in their local democracy. We remain confident that this law is legal and an essential expansion of our democracy as it faces divisive partisan attacks.”

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