Update: GOP Sues NYC Over Alien-Voting Law

A lifeline to save the president and his party from their more extreme immigration policies

By Andrew R. Arthur on January 12, 2022

In a January 11 post, I analyzed a bill passed by the New York City Council (Int. 1867-2020A) allowing legal immigrants and employment-authorized aliens to vote in municipal elections in the city. It became law when the new mayor of the city, Eric Adams (D), returned it to the council unsigned. To update, GOP officials in the Empire State have now filed suit in state court to block that law’s implementation.

The New York Complaint. That complaint was filed in the New York State Supreme Court in Staten Island.

Staten Island (technically Richmond County) is the most Republican-leaning of NYC’s five boroughs. In the November 2021 election for borough president there, for example, Vito Fossella (R) won with 62 percent of the votes cast, and Republicans Paul Marrone and Ronald Castorina cruised to victory for the New York Supreme Court by healthy margins over their Democratic challengers.

Speaking of, the state’s 62 supreme courts are not like the federal one, which is the nation’s court of last resort. Rather, in New York, supreme courts are courts of general jurisdiction and serve as the highest trial courts there.

The plaintiffs in the case include Fossella and Joe Borelli — the minority leader of the city council — and other Republican council members, as well as the chairmen of the state’s Republican and Conservative parties, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y., who represents Staten Island and a small section of Brooklyn), other state elected officials from Staten Island, and four voters who are naturalized citizens.

They are alleging that the law contravenes the state’s constitution. Article II, section 1 therein states:

Every citizen shall be entitled to vote at every election for all officers elected by the people and upon all questions submitted to the vote of the people provided that such citizen is eighteen years of age or over and shall have been a resident of this state, and of the county, city, or village for thirty days next preceding an election.

Similarly, section 5 in article II provides:

Laws shall be made for ascertaining, by proper proofs, the citizens who shall be entitled to the right of suffrage hereby established, and for the registration of voters; which registration shall be completed at least ten days before each election.

The complaint contends that the law will “dilute the votes of citizens” and that it “is intended to, and will, cause an abrupt and sizeable change to the makeup of the electorate, which will force the elective-officeholder plaintiffs to change the way that they campaign for office and will materially affect their likelihood of future electoral victory”.

Analysis of the Suit. It is difficult to contest either of those assertions. The Associated Press has estimated that more than 800,000 aliens will be enfranchised under the bill. Given the fact that Adams won election as mayor after receiving just under 272,000 votes (just fewer than 802,000 votes were cast in the more hotly contested Democratic mayoral primary), the addition of even 100,000 voters would be significant.

And, as I noted in my prior post, many of those new potential voters will be nonimmigrants, aliens who by definition do not intend to put down roots in the United States, let alone New York City.

Further, that complaint alleges that the Republican party and elected officials therein will be required “to adjust their strategies and how they allocate their resources to help elect Republicans in New York”. That is not just gloss; I am not sure how candidates would hustle for the votes of, say, illegal aliens under final orders of removal with work authorization (who would also be eligible to vote under the bill).

Mayor Eric Adams Had Concerns, but Will Defend the Law. As the AP reported, Adams initially had concerns about that legislation, as did his predecessor, Mayor Bill DeBlasio (D) (a big advocate for illegal immigrants). Neither vetoed the bill, but neither signed it, either. Constitutional experts also voiced questions as to its legality.

Despite this fact, Adams (who is named as a defendant along with the city council and the city’s board of elections) has vowed “to vigorously defend the law in court”, according to his spokesman.

The Political Implications of the Law and the Suit. That is likely his duty as the city’s chief magistrate, but a Wall Street Journal editorial on January 10 argued that, thanks to this bill, “New York’s Democrats are handing Republicans a political issue”.

On the January 9 edition of CBS’s Face the Nation, Georgia state Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger argued for a constitutional amendment limiting the right to vote to U.S. citizens. As the Journal noted: “The host, CBS’s Margaret Brennan, tried to do an instant fact check. ‘Only U.S. citizens do currently vote in elections, but go on,’ she said”.

Raffensperger countered that “now you see that cities are trying to push noncitizen voting”. He did not refer directly to New York City's Int. 1867-2020A, however, and neither did Brennan, who failed to respond to the secretary’s contentions. As I explained in my earlier post, some 15 U.S. jurisdictions now allow aliens to vote in various elections, including San Francisco for school board elections.

When San Francisco passed that law in July 2018, Hill.TV conducted a poll with HarrisX, showing that 71 percent of respondents objected to it — including 54 percent of Democrats and 70 percent of Independents.

Republican pollster Jim McLaughlin opined at the time: “It makes perfect sense, and that's what we've seen in polling on this issue where even Republicans, obviously, overwhelmingly oppose it, but even Democrats think it's a bad idea, and independents think it's a really, really bad idea”.

The San Francisco law was much more limited than New York City’s, and for what it’s worth, few aliens have opted to vote in the City by the Bay: Just 36 were registered and 31 cast ballots there in 2020, according to the Journal’s editorial board.

National polling on Int. 1867-2020A would likely reveal similar (if not higher) margins of opposition, but I question whether any national outlets would conduct such a poll, as it would just draw attention to the poorly thought-out legislation.

Immigration Overreach. NYC’s bill is just part and parcel of overreach by the president and many of his fellow partisans on the issue of immigration. Americans (myself and the Center included) respect and support the idea that the United States is and should remain a “nation of immigrants”, but that means a nation of legal immigrants who respect the law and who desire to join the national polity by naturalizing.

Int. 1867-2020A places no such requirements on its newly enfranchised voters, and will only serve to underscore the fact that the Biden administration has all but negated immigration enforcement in the interior while allowing the Southwest border to devolve into chaos. This is a losing game plan for the president and his fellow partisans as polls have revealed since election day and up to the present.

Want proof? The New York State GOP has a large pop-up on its website that states: “STOP NON-CITIZEN VOTING”. It requests the names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses of those opposing the New York City law. How do you think that the party will use that information in upcoming elections and fundraising?

The state’s Conservative Party, for its part, takes a more subdued and humorous tack. The front page of its website includes a link to the chairman’s statement in opposition to the bill and his role in the lawsuit, which contains the following:

One almost misses the days when the City Council was simply an object of humor: (Q. What’s the difference between the New York City Council and a rubber stamp? A. A rubber stamp leaves an impression.)

There’s nothing funny, whatsoever, about the City Council now. Its radicalism knows no bounds.

I do not question the intentions of the officials who are plaintiffs to the lawsuit. Although I earlier questioned the likelihood of success of any litigation, my review of the New York state constitution (I am not a member of the bar there and was heretofore unfamiliar with the document) prompts me to reconsider. That said, opposing unpopular policies is good politics, as the foregoing shows.

An Opportunity for a Course Correction. The New York lawsuit, like the recently court-ordered return to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP, better known as “Return to Mexico”), is a lifeline that is being thrown to Democrats to curb their more extreme immigration proposals. Whether they grasp that lifeline in time for the 2022 midterm elections is a different issue.