Victory! Court Refuses to Revive New York City’s Alien Voting Law

Press Releases

February 22, 2024

IRLI had shown court that law violates the Constitution

WASHINGTON—Last evening, a New York state appellate court sustained a lower court’s invalidation of a law the New York City Council had passed giving the right to vote in city elections to aliens. The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) had filed brief in the appeal urging that result.

IRLI had explained in its brief that, under the judicial precedents interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, discrimination against groups courts have held to be “protected classes” must be struck down unless it passes “strict scrutiny,” that is, can be shown to be necessary to achieve a compelling governmental interest. Aliens, racial groups, and groups defined by national origin have all been held to be protected classes.
IRLI showed that American citizens, too, should be considered a protected class. The alien voting law, IRLI pointed out, would dilute the votes of American citizens in New York City, by letting those who are not citizens vote. The law also discriminates against voters in New York City who were born in this country and thus are of American national origin, because the law would only add foreign-born persons to the voting rolls, thus diluting the votes of the American-born. Those of American national origin are a protected class, as well, and laws burdening them have to receive strict scrutiny.
IRLI then showed that this law could never pass strict scrutiny, because the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that all Americans, whatever their national origin, have a constitutional right to be ruled by their fellow citizens, not by aliens.

Today, the court held that provisions in the New York Constitution restrict the right to vote in any election in the state to U.S. citizens. Accordingly, the court upheld the trial court’s invalidation of the law.
“We applaud the court for its decision, and are pleased this law remains null and void,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI. “Laws such as this are an attack on the very idea of American nationhood. The sovereign of this democratic nation is the people, U.S. citizens. When their power is eroded, our nation begins to lose its very independence. Despite today’s victory, this is not the end of activists’ attempts to extend the vote to aliens, even in federal elections, and we continue this critical fight on other fronts.”
The case is Fossella v. Adams, No. 2022-05794 (N.Y. Appellate Div., 2d Judicial Dept.).

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