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New York City council appeals ruling on non-citizen voting

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(The Center Square) — The New York City Council is asking the state’s highest court to overturn rulings striking down a law that would allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.

The New York City Law Department filed a notice of appeal on behalf of the City Council on Monday, saying it plans to seek a ruling from the New York State Court of Appeals in response to the February decision invalidating the law, approved by the council in 2021.

“Empowering New Yorkers to participate in our local democratic process can only strengthen New York City by increasing civic engagement,” Council spokesman Rendy Desamours said in a statement. “We look forward to the Court of Appeals’ consideration of the Council’s appeal.”

The move follows a similar appeal by immigrant rights groups who also want the Court of Appeals to reverse a 3-1 ruling by the Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department, which sided with Republicans who challenged the law. They argued that a clause in the state Constitution that “every citizen shall be entitled to vote” refers only to U.S. citizens, and the appeals court agreed with their legal challenge.

The law calls for allowing green card holders and others living in New York City with federal work authorization to vote in local elections for offices including mayor and City Council. It was expected to add another 800,000 new eligible voters in New York City, which has a population of nearly 8.5 million.

The legal challenge is playing out as New York City grapples with an influx of more than 183,000 migrants over the past year following a surge of immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border, which has cost the city nearly $2 billion over the past year and become a flashpoint in city politics.

Mayor Eric Adams’ administration defended the law and appealed a lower court’s ruling striking it down, but the Democrat has been largely silent on whether he would appeal the court’s ruling. He wasn’t a signatory to the appeal filed by the council.

Immigration advocates praised the move to appeal the Appellate Division’s decision, arguing that the court’s ruling prevents hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from having a say in decisions in a city where they live, work and pay taxes.

“Immigrants are the backbone of New York’s economy and communities,” Murad Awawdeh, president and CEO of the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a statement. “But despite their contributions as taxpayers and community-members, many immigrant New Yorkers do not have the right to participate in local decision-making.”

Rep. Nicole Malliokotis, R-N.Y., one of several GOP lawmakers who filed the legal challenge, urged the City Council to “not waste more taxpayer money,” appealing the ruling and “focus on the needs of hardworking New Yorkers who are facing so many quality of life and public safety issues.”

“There is nothing more important than preserving the integrity of our election system and this unconstitutional law that has been struck down in two consecutive wins only diminished the voices of our citizenry,” the Staten Island Republican said in a statement.