Jan. 11, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Three Queens Council Members have joined a Republican-led lawsuit that aims to block a new city law that allows legal noncitizens to vote in local elections.
Republican Council Members Joann Ariola and Vickie Paladino as well as Democrat Council Member Robert Holden have signed onto a lawsuit with leaders of the New York state Republican Party arguing that the new law is unconstitutional.
The suit, filed Monday in Staten Island Supreme Court, asks a judge to issue an injunction against the city from implementing the law.
The suit states that the law violates Article 2, Section 1, of the state constitution, which grants the right to vote in all elections to “every citizen” 18 years of age or older.
“The law is clear and the ethics are even clearer,” New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy said in a statement. “We shouldn’t be allowing citizens of other nations to vote in our elections, full stop.”
The legal action seeks to stop 800,000 non-citizen New Yorkers – comprised of green card holders and residents who are authorized to work — from voting in local elections.
The suit was filed less than 24 hours after a bill, titled “Our City, Our Vote,” went into effect that grants most noncitizens the right to vote in local elections. Mayor Adams decided not to challenge the legislation after the previous council passed the bill by 33 votes to 14 last month, one vote short of overriding the mayor’s power to veto the bill.
Under the legislation, legal residents now have the right to vote in city elections, such as for mayor, public advocate, comptroller and their local council member. They are unable to vote in state and federal elections.
However, legal experts have questioned its constitutionality, as do the Queens legislators named in the suit.
The plaintiffs also argue that the new law violates Section 5-102(1) of Chapter 17 state election law which states that “no person shall be qualified to register for and vote at any election unless he is a citizen of the United States.”
Furthermore, they argue in the suit that a public referendum is required to pass any law that changes the method of voting under the state’s Municipal Home Rule Law.
Holden, who represents Council District 30 in central Queens, said he joined the lawsuit because he believes the law is unconstitutional and “absurd.” He is the only Democratic lawmaker named in the suit.
“Citizenship and suffrage have always been tied together for good reason, and must never be torn from each other,” Holden said in a statement.
He also criticized a stipulation in the bill that only requires noncitizens to live in the city for 30 days prior to a local election.
Ariola, who represents Council District 32 in southeastern Queens, expressed her support for the lawsuit on social media Monday.
“Voting is the right of American citizens,” Ariola posted on Twitter.
“There are so many immigrants that came to this country and became citizens, who also oppose this legislation.”