By Chris Tobias
On Friday, July 22, the New York City Law Department filed a notice that it would appeal with the Appellate Division, Second Department. The effort gives hope in the fight to enfranchise nearly 1 million new voters starting next year. Local Law 11 is a new law extending voting rights to certain non-citizens. Last month, the Richmond County Supreme Court decided to invalidate “Our City Our Vote”- Local Law 11, which gave New Yorkers with legal permanent status or work authorization the right to vote in municipal elections. Under the legislation passed by the New York City Council in December 2021, non-citizens who have lived in the City for at least 30 days and are legal permanent residents in the US. Green card holders, individuals with work permits, and DACA holders — would be allowed to vote in city elections, including the mayor, public advocate, borough president, and city council. The law was set to go into effect in January 2023, with over 800,000 New York City residents will become eligible to vote.
There had been apprehension among advocates over whether the City would join them in appealing Richmond County State Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio’s ruling. The deadline to file a notice of appeal is Wednesday, July 27. Advocates, who had joined the lawsuit on behalf of individuals who would gain voting rights and were committed to an appeal, are included in the claim. The papers were filed on behalf of Mayor Eric Adams, the BOE, and the City Council.
Chair of the City Council Immigration Committee, Shahana Hanif, applauded the City’s move and tweeted, “the fight isn’t over.” In response to the Adams administration appeal of the Richmond County Supreme Court’s ruling, Murad Awawdeh, Executive Director, New York Immigration Coalition said: “As expected, the City has appealed the Richmond County Supreme Court’s politically motivated ruling overturning the Our City, Our Vote law (Local Law 11-2022). We are ready and eager to continue defending the right of 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.”
At the time of its passing in December 2021, Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to sign or veto the bill. His successor Adams — who said he supported the measure despite initial “concerns” — allowed it to become law shortly after taking office in January by failing to take any action within 30 days of the bill’s passage. There was opposition from a group of New York Republicans led by Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella, who then filed a lawsuit to block the new law from being implemented. A handful of Democrats, most notably then-Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo opposed Local Law 11.
In his 13-page ruling, State Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio, based in Staten Island, said in a written decision that the legislation is illegal and violates the state constitution, which only allows citizens to vote. “There is no statutory ability for the City of New York to issue inconsistent laws permitting non-citizens to vote and exceed the authority granted to it by the New York State Constitution. Though voting is a right that so many citizens take for granted, the City of New York cannot “obviate” the restrictions imposed by the constitution,” Porzio wrote. The fight continues.