Battle over voting rights for noncitizen residents in NYC elections officially enters courtroom

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Battle over voting rights for noncitizen residents in NYC elections officially enters courtroom


The battle over whether New York City can extend voting rights in local elections to certain noncitizens like Naveed entered a Staten Island courtroom on Tuesday, six months after Local Law 11 took effect in January. The Council passed the measure in December that would allow those who have resided in the city for more than 30 days and are authorized to live and work here to register to vote in local elections.

That could activate more than 800,000 New Yorkers to vote starting next year, when they would first be able to cast a ballot in a city election.

The case is being heard by Justice Ralph J. Porzio, who heard oral arguments for more than two hours on Tuesday. A decision is expected at the end of the month.

Plaintiffs led by Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella, a Republican endorsed by Donald Trump, filed suit in January to throw out the law arguing it violated the state constitution and state election law. In filings submitted ahead of Tuesday’s hearing in Richmond County State Supreme Court, attorneys argued among other things that state law required people to be citizens to cast a vote.

Their lawyers also argued the law would change how the plaintiffs, primarily Republicans, campaign for office and could hurt their ability to win elections in the future.

The City Law Department, in its defense of City Hall, filed a memorandum arguing that the state constitution enables New York City to enact laws to manage its municipal elections and define who is qualified to participate in those elections.

The city Board of Elections, which is also a defendant and would normally be represented by the Law Department, sought out its own counsel. The city BOE is represented by two firms with Jerry Goldfeder, special counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, as one of the lead attorneys. He has argued that the state Board of Elections should also be a defendant in the lawsuit, given its role overseeing elections, which was granted on Tuesday.

In April, a group of nine additional defendants, all city residents who would be granted voting rights under the law, joined the lawsuit as intervenors represented by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, formerly known as the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, a nonprofit civil rights organization .

Naveed, the registered nurse and attorney, is one of those intervenor-defendants.

Ahead of the Tuesday hearing, supporters of the law rallied on the steps of the courthouse in Staten Island. Murad Awawdeh, head of the New York Immigration Coalition, said the case is an example of local Republicans mimicking the efforts to restrict voting access taking place across the US

“Bringing more people into our municipal elections — expanding our franchise — is not taking away anything from anyone,” Awawdeh told Gothamist. “It’s actually making our city greater because everyone is part of it.”

Justice Porzio said he would render a decision on Monday, June 27th and it would be posted online at 2 pm



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