The World Forum - June 16th, 2024

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Court Finds New York City Plan To Let Noncitizens Vote in Local Elections Unconstitutional

Court Finds New York City Plan To Let Noncitizens Vote in Local Elections Unconstitutional

The city is reviewing next steps and has not yet appealed the decision to the state’s highest court.

 A New York City law allowing noncitizen residents of the city to vote in local elections has been ruled unconstitutional at New York’s Appellate Court.

The law in question would have given legal residents of New York City the right to cast ballots in local elections, like the mayoral, public advocate, and City Council elections. 

Noncitizen voters would have cast ballots under a new “municipal voter” system that would have prevented them from voting in state and federal elections.

The opinion Wednesday, which largely agreed with a lower court’s ruling, came in response to an appeal from the mayor’s office, which was seeking to overturn a lower court decision that also found the law unconstitutional.

“The enactment of the Local Law without a referendum improperly obviates the fundamental right of the voters to participate in the electoral process,” justices for the majority at the Appellate Court said. 

The single dissenting justice, Lillian Wan, wrote that the majority’s position would have unduly limited local government from administering their own elections.

“The majority, by deeming the noncitizen voting law invalid, effectively prohibits municipalities across the state from deciding for themselves the persons who are entitled to a voice in the local electoral process,” Judge Wan wrote.

A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said it was reviewing next steps in the suit. The city has not yet filed an appeal to the New York Court of Appeals, the highest state court, and said that it is exploring its options.

The law was initially passed in early 2022, though it was immediately challenged by state Republicans and the Staten Island borough president, Vito Fosella.