Foreign National Voting Enacted in New York City, Lawsuit Filed to Stop
FAIR Take | January 2022
The fight over the New York City Council's proposal for foreign national voting has only just begun in earnest. The council passed the bill on December 9, 2021, giving the mayor 30 days to act before it would automatically become law. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio left office on New Year’s Day without acting on the bill thus punting it to his successor Mayor Eric Adams (D). Adams, too, despite claiming he had qualms over foreign nationals voting ultimately allowed the 30 days to run and the bill become law on January 9. A lawsuit has been filed seeking to block the bill from taking effect.
Under the bill, New York City’s Board of Elections is directed to create new voter rolls and ballots for foreign national “municipal voters” who would be eligible to vote for city offices and city ballot questions, but not in state or federal races. Anyone who has lived in the city for 30 days and is legally authorized to work in the United States would be eligible to register and to vote. This could extend the franchise not just to lawful permanent residents (“green card holders”), but potentially to individuals residing in New York City on a temporary work visas, recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Admissions (DACA), refugees, asylum applicants and immigration parolees. Foreign nationals could start voting as early as 2023.
A lawsuit was filed against city officials on January 10. It alleges the bill violates:
- the New York State Constitution, which repeatedly provides and presumes that voting is limited to citizens only;
- Section 5-102 of the New York Election Law, which provides that “[n]o person shall be qualified to register for and vote at any election unless he is a citizen of the United States”; and
- Section 23(2)(e) of the New York Municipal Home Rule Law, which requires that any change in the method of electing officers of a local government must be approved by the voters in a referendum.
New York State Republican Party Chairman Nicholas Langworthy was the plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in Richmond County Staten Island in state court. Elected officials and voters from around New York City including Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn), State Assemblymen Michael Reilly (R-Staten Island) and Michael Tannousis (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn), Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella (R), City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) and City Councilmembers David Carr (R- Staten Island), Joann Ariola (R-Queens), Robert Holden (D-Queens), Vickie Paladino (R-Queens) and Inna Vernikov (R-Brooklyn) joined Langworthy in the suit.
At a press conference announcing the lawsuit, Langworthy condemned the bill, stating, “[t]he law is clear and the ethics are even clearer, we shouldn’t be allowing citizens of other nations to vote in our elections, full stop. We are only two weeks into the Adams Administration and he is already kowtowing to the radical City Council … This lawsuit is the only thing that will stop them from their ultimate goal of eradicating all the lines between citizens and foreign nationals.”
Malliotakis added that “[t]he right to vote is a sacred right given only to United States citizens. This careless legislation violates the state constitution, dilutes the voices of American citizens and is not in line with the views of the vast majority of our city.”
And Borelli stressed that “[a]nyone reading NY state election law in plain English can see that it prohibits foreign citizen voting.”
The suit names Adams, the city council and the city board of elections as defendants, and asks the court to bar them from “implementing the law in any respect.”
Conspicuously absent among the plaintiffs so far are eight of the nine Democrat city councilmembers who voted against the bill, some who condemned it strongly and others who opposed it for the same reasons raised in the lawsuit.