New York Democrats Appeal Decision Denying Noncitizen Voting Rights

While the U.S. Constitution permits most citizens over the age of 18 to participate in elections, there have been sporadic efforts in predominantly Democratic-controlled regions of the country to expand that right to include noncitizens.

Last week, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit filed by seven registered voters in D.C. that challenged the district’s law allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections.

In a ruling handed down on Thursday, Judge Amy Berman Jackson determined that citizens were not harmed by policies extending voting rights to noncitizens.

“They may object as a matter of policy to the fact that immigrants get to vote at all, but their votes will not receive any less weight or be treated different than noncitizens’ votes; they are not losing representation in any legislative body; nor have citizens as a group been discriminatorily gerrymandered, ‘packed’ or ‘cracked’ to divide, concentrate or devalue their votes,” she claimed.

A similar effort to extend voting rights to noncitizens is underway in New York City, though an appeals court ruled last month that the roughly 800,000 green card holders who would have been permitted to vote in local elections should not be eligible. Members of the city council responded by taking the case all the way to the New York Supreme Court.

Council spokesperson Rendy Desamours issued a statement asserting: “Today’s filing to appeal the Second Department’s recent decision seeks a determination from the state’s highest court that the law is consistent with the State Constitution, Election Law, and the Municipal Home Rule Law. Empowering New Yorkers to participate in our local democratic process can only strengthen New York City by increasing civic engagement.”

Of course, not everyone agrees with that assessment, including state Assemblyman Michael Tannousis, a Republican, who applauded the appeals court ruling.

“During a time where nearly 200,000 migrants have flooded our city and streets, disrupting the public and attacking our police officers, my colleagues and I have worked tirelessly to protect our voting laws which were created for citizens of the United States,” he said.

“Democracy always wins and I am proud to say it was delivered yet again today.”