Our City, Our Vote Coalition urges NYS Supreme Court to let Local Law 11 implemented

by Ricky Rillera

Our City, Our Vote Coalition rally in front of NYS Supreme Court | Photo credit New York Immigration Coalition

NEW YORK – Members of the Our City, Our Vote Coalition convened a rally today in front of the New York State Supreme Court to call on court officials to protect democracy and allow Local Law 11 to go into effect.

The Coalition’s legal representatives and interveners in the case, including immigrant advocates, elected officials, and other supporters, presented themselves ahead of oral arguments in Fossella v. New York City. The New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, will decide on the eligibility of the City’s permanent residents to vote in municipal elections.

In December 2021, the New York City Council passed Intro 1867, legislation that allows New York City residents who are otherwise qualified to register under New York State election law to vote in municipal elections. Before the bill’s passage, nearly one million New York City residents could not vote in local elections due to their citizenship status, despite paying taxes and being invested in and contributing to the City. Mayor Eric Adams allowed the legislation to become law; hence, Local Law 11 was supposed to take effect in January 2023.

Before pushing for its passage, the New York Immigration Coalition, assisted by a pro-bono legal team, conducted a rigorous legal review of Intro 1867/Local Law 11 and found that the bill did not violate New York State’s electoral laws or its constitution.

Related article: NY City Council passes Intro 1867 OCOV Bill expanding the right to vote to non-citizens

Soon after Local Law 11 was passed, a group of Republican voters, elected officials, and party representatives filed suit in the Richmond County Supreme Court in Staten Island to stop the law from being enacted. The judge ruled invalidating the law, disenfranchising nearly one million New Yorkers.

“The successful Republican effort to overturn ‘Our City, Our Vote’ is a shameful chapter in our City’s history. But today’s appeal is how we correct course and ensure at a time when democracy is under assault across our country, New York City is strengthening it,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif, Immigration Committee Chair, District 39. “The decision to overturn OCOV was misguided and founded in xenophobia. I’m proud to offer my support to the broad Coalition fighting for this bill to ensure our City is strengthening the right to vote and deepening the roots of our democracy.”

Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, noted that the contributions of immigrants to the economic, social, and cultural vitality of New York City are invaluable.

“Despite this, many immigrants in our City cannot participate in the civic processes that shape their daily lives. Local Law 11 rightfully and legally ensures that nearly 1 million New Yorkers building their lives here and investing in our communities can have a say in their local democracy, said Awawdeh. “It’s long overdue that all New Yorkers who live here, pay taxes, send their kids to school, finally have a say in what happens in their city and neighborhoods, enshrining New York City’s commitment to democracy and equity.”

“Immigrants are the cornerstone of New York City, yet they are being prevented from participating in the most fundamental process of our democracy, voting,” said Fulvia Vargas-De Leon, Senior Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and one of the lawyers representing the case. This case is about a group of New Yorkers who live, work, and form a significant part of the NYC community yet have no say in the politics that govern them. LatinoJustice and our clients remain firm in our commitment to protecting and advancing our communities’ voting rights. We call on the Court to find that the law is constitutional and allows NYC to have a representative democracy truly.”

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