Immigrant advocates urge Mayor Adams to join appeal of ruling that undid NYC noncitizen voting law

NEW YORK — Immigration advocates urged Mayor Eric Adams on Monday to join them in asking the state’s highest court to reverse a ruling that struck down a law giving hundreds of thousands of noncitizen New Yorkers the right to vote in local elections.

The law was first ruled unconstitutional in June 2022 by Staten Island Supreme Court Justice Ralph Porzio, who found it violated state election laws holding that only U.S. citizens should be allowed to vote. The ruling prompted the Adams administration to file an appeal, but the Supreme Court’s appellate division rejected it last month and upheld Porzio’s ruling.

In a last-ditch attempt, attorneys from the nonprofit LatinoJustice law firm filed notice this past Friday calling on the State Court of Appeals, New York’s top court, to reverse Porzio’s ruling. On Monday morning, they joined immigration advocates on the City Hall steps to urge the mayor to team up with them.

“We really hope that Mayor Adams joins us in this case,” said Nora Moran, a policy director at the United Neighborhood Houses, one of several groups that took part in the rally.

Spokespeople for the mayor did not immediately return requests for comment. The deadline for the mayor’s administration to join in LatinoJustice’s planned appeal is Monday.

Porzio’s ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Staten Island Borough President Vito Fosella and a group of other local Republican politicians. The GOP pols have argued that granting noncitizens the right to vote in local elections would dilute the electoral power of citizens and violate the state constitution.

Supporters of the law, which was first adopted by the City Council in December 2021, say it’s morally sound to let noncitizen residents vote in local elections, given that they pay local taxes.

The law doesn’t give undocumented immigrants the ability to vote, but only extends that right to noncitizens with legal status, such as green card holders, as long as they’ve maintained New York residency for at least 30 days. According to the City Council, the law would make about 800,000 immigrants in New York City eligible to vote.

The law only gives noncitizens the right to cast ballots in municipal elections for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, City Council seats and borough president. It does not expand the right to vote in federal and state elections.

Eva Santos Veloz, a 34-year-old immigrant from the Dominican Republic who resides legally in the U.S. thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, said on the City Hall steps that the city’s large immigrant community continues to be “ignored.” She argued the noncitizen voting law could change that.

“We are not just fighting for ourselves, but for the future of our city, our children,” she said.