The Supreme Court of the State of New York has knocked down this Monday the possibility that 800,000 foreign residents in the city can vote in local elections. The Municipal Council had approved in December the right to vote for immigrants with a green card, work permit or temporary protections of asylum or refuge. According to the ruling, the measure violates the State Constitution.
According to Judge Ralph J. Porzio, author of the sentence, to grant those who are not United States citizens the right to vote, even in mayoral elections, it would be necessary to hold a referendum, since according to the Constitution in force in the State, they can only vote eligible citizens.
The ruling occurs on the eve of the state’s primary elections, but the rule will not take effect until next January. The approval of the right to vote for immigrants placed New York at the forefront of a national debate on the right to vote, not unrelated to the struggle between Republicans and Democrats for the intrinsic right and to which the States have been reacting in the opposite direction. : some, in favor of expanding eligibility; the others, explicitly prohibiting non-Americans from voting. State and federal leaders of the Republican Party, as well as a handful of local Republican officials, had challenged the law. New York State, like the city’s mayor’s office, is a traditionally Democratic stronghold.
The Staten Island judge’s ruling responds precisely to a lawsuit filed by Republican representatives. “Today’s decision validates those of us who can read the English words of our state Constitution and statutes,” said Joseph Borelli, a Republican Staten Island councilman and one of the plaintiffs. “The vote of non-citizens in New York is illegal”, he has riveted. The lawsuit was filed by Vito Fossella -like Borelli, a descendant of immigrants-, president of the county of Staten Island, arguing that the new rule would change the way of campaigning. A group of voters joined the claim because they considered that their votes would be diluted by the new law. The redesign of the New York electoral map is no stranger to the bitter struggle.
The mayor, Democrat Eric Adams, received the news while presiding over an act of the Department of Sanitation in the county of the Bronx. Adams initially supported the legislation but did not sign it when he became mayor in January, so the bill automatically became law. Those responsible for the city are “evaluating the next steps” to take, said Fabien Levy, spokesman for the mayor, in the only official reaction to the blow from the Supreme Court for the time being.
Murad Awawdeh, director of the New York Immigration Coalition, which brings together some twenty groups, lamented the court decision. “It was not a surprise to us, because the Republican opponents of the law filed their lawsuit in precisely a court that they knew would be favorable to them. Despite the Court’s decision, we will continue to fight to ensure that the nearly one million New Yorkers who make their lives here and are investing in our communities have a voice in local democracy.” Other activist groups have expressed themselves in similar terms.
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The approval of the right to vote for immigrants was a milestone in its day, in a city that is increasingly mestizo also in political representation, both at the local and state levels. To the historical immigration of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, fueled by Italians and Irish – who left their mark for decades on the Police Department, to cite an important body in the city – and later, in the seventies, Asian , a growing presence of Hispanics has been added in recent decades.
In primaries with hardly any emotion, given the political orientation of the State and the foreseeable Democratic victory, New Yorkers will choose this Tuesday and next August 23 which candidates will appear on the ballots for the November mid-term elections for the renewal of seats in the US Senate and House of Representatives, the state Senate and state Assembly, as well as for governor, attorney general, and other state offices.
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