The Republican delegation from the New York City City Council on Wednesday presented its case against legislation that would allow some non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.
In a letter to the Board of Elections (BOE), the delegation, led by City Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli (R-South Shore), referred to the State Constitution, its electoral law and a number of cases above that it claims cause local law to violate state rules.
“I think our legal position on this is strong,” Borelli said during a news conference. “Because state law is so clear, the BOE shouldn’t follow it.”
The Electoral Board is made up of 10 commissioners and its staff is made up of a bipartisan group appointed by local party leaders, therefore, the future of the measure is not yet defined.
Under the law, which outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he intends to enact, the BOE must determine how to apply the new guideline through separate ballots for citizens and separate ballots for the 900,000 non-citizens.
A plan report should be complete within 30 days of July 1 for elections beginning January 9, 2023. If the BOE does not meet that deadline, then it would have refused to implement local law and the case it would be open to litigation.
“We think the Republican commissioners will probably hold the line on this,” Borelli said.
De Blasio had in the past voiced his opposition to the bill, sponsored by outgoing councilman Ydanis Rodríguez (D-Manhattan). He did not provide his explicit support, arguing that the measure will deter green card holders from becoming citizens.
On the other hand, proponents of the bill argue that giving permanent residents the right to vote would introduce them into the civic process and create fair representation for people who live and work in the five boroughs.
“Within these chambers, the New York City Council is making history,” said Rodríguez, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, when the bill was passed. “In one of the most diverse cities in the world, we must ensure that there is adequate representation for all New Yorkers.”
Borelli said Wednesday that the state constitution is vague as to who can vote, but pointed to a section of the state’s electoral law that specifies that “(no) person shall be qualified to register and vote in any election unless he or she is a citizen. from United States”.
Some Council members who supported the bill also expressed a number of concerns about the effect it could have on the city, including the brevity of the 30-day residency requirement and its impact on the African-American community.
Several members, including outgoing Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-North Shore), said they hoped the next Council would work to address the concerns before the BOE takes separate votes.
Staten Island County President-elect Republican Vito Fossella has also said he will sue once the mayor signs the bill.
Additionally, Assemblyman Michael Reilly (R-South Shore) recently introduced legislation targeting local guidance.
Reilly’s legislation, introduced in the Democratic-controlled chamber, would add to the section of state election law that prohibits certain people from voting, including those with criminal records.
“Allowing more than 800,000 non-citizens to participate in the election of the leaders of the largest city in the United States not only threatens the integrity of our elections, but also sets a dangerous precedent that challenges the concept of citizenship, as well as rights and responsibilities granted to the citizens of the United States of America, ”he said in a written statement.
Rodríguez, who was a green card holder from 1983 to 2000 before obtaining his citizenship, said he would use the law as an example for states across the country that have been trying to make voting more difficult.
“Many other cities in the nation, as well as abroad, are observing this,” he said.