A state Supreme Court judge on Monday blocked a New York City law that allowed non-nationals to vote for mayor and other city officials, a move Republicans have called unconstitutional.
New York had in January become the first major city in the country to grant the right to vote in municipal elections to non-citizens. The measure had been challenged by Republicans.
Supporters of the law said it gave an electoral voice to many people who have built a home in the city and pay taxes but face difficult paths to citizenship.
New York Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy and several Republican elected officials said the law violates provisions of the state constitution and state election law that specifically confer voting rights to citizens.
State Court Judge Ralph Porzio agreed with the GOP.
“Although voting is a right that many citizens take for granted, New York City cannot ‘bypass’ the restrictions imposed by the Constitution,” wrote Porzio, whose office is in Staten Island. His ruling prevents the city from potentially registering more than 800,000 new voters without US citizenship.
Langworthy hailed the ruling as a “victory for citizens’ rights, electoral integrity and the rule of law.”
He and other plaintiffs accused the Democratic-led city government of passing the law for partisan gain.
“As the son of immigrants who came to this country legally and worked tirelessly to become citizens, I consider voting to be a sacred right given to American citizens,” added state legislator Michael Tannousis, whose parents were originally Greek citizens. He represents parts of Staten Island and Brooklyn.
The city said it was considering next steps.
“This is a disappointing court ruling for people who value bringing thousands more New Yorkers into the democratic process,” the city’s Law Department said in a statement.
Immigrant rights advocates criticized the ruling and hoped for a possible appeal.
“The decision strikes at the core of our democracy and values as a city of immigrants,” said Ahmed Mohamed, legal director of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The city had argued that the state Constitution leaves room for the city to set rules on its own elections and that the law would help ensure that local officials are representative of the population.
Legally documented non-citizens of voting age make up nearly one in nine of New York City’s 7 million voting-age residents.
More than a dozen communities in the United States allow non-citizens to cast their ballots in local elections, including 11 towns in Maryland and two in Vermont. In San Francisco, non-citizens can vote in school board elections. New York City allowed the same thing for three decades, until its school board disbanded in 2002.
Meanwhile, Alabama, Colorado and Florida have in recent years adopted rules that would prevent any attempt to pass laws like the one in New York City. Arizona and North Dakota already had bans on the books.
The law had granted local voting rights to non-citizens who have been lawful permanent residents of the city for at least 30 days, as well as those authorized to work in the United States, including “dreamers,” a term for young immigrants. who are living irregularly in the country to which they were brought as children and have temporary protection from deportation.
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