Dec. 7, 2021 By Allie Griffin
Queens Republicans are pushing back against a City Council bill that would provide legal noncitizens with the right vote in city elections.
Republicans and other critics have held press conferences, launched ‘call to action’ campaigns and have publicly condemned the legislation, known as “Our City, Our Vote”, ahead of the Council’s scheduled vote on Thursday.
The legislation, which is expected to pass, would give approximately 800,000 green card holders and authorized workers the right to vote in municipal elections. It would require such voters to have lived in the city for at least 30 consecutive days prior to the election.
The Queens Village Republican Club sent out an email blast last month calling on its members to reach out to their council representatives and ask them to vote no on what it called an “abominable” bill.
Club President Phil Orenstein claimed that the lawmakers in support of the bill “aim to destroy citizenship through non-citizen voting laws.”
“Citizenship is now under attack,” Orenstein wrote. “Elected officials in the NYC Council are now targeting your voting system.”
He urged members to contact their local council members.
“Call, visit, and write to them about the true meaning of citizenship and demand that they vote ‘no’ on this bill,” Orenstein said.
The bill, however, is expected to pass as 35 of the 51 council members plus the public advocate are sponsors. Given the number of sponsors, the bill is also anticipated to be veto-proof.
However, opponents have already pledged to take legal action against the legislation.
The New York State Republican Party alongside current and future GOP council members said they would fight the bill in court.
Party Chairman Nick Langworthy and Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli convened a press conference on the steps of City Hall Thursday to denounce the bill. They pledged to fight against it, even if that means in court.
“This is perhaps the worst idea out of New York City Democrats ever, and that’s really saying something,” Langworthy said. “This radical legislation is unconstitutional, un-American and downright dangerous.”
He argued that the legislation violates the state constitution, which links voting rights to citizenship.
“This is unconditionally unconstitutional and we will use every legal method to make sure it’s stopped,” Langworthy said.
The state constitution, however, doesn’t expressly say that noncitizens cannot vote. The bill supporters say that tax-paying noncitizens should have the right to vote.
Queens Council Member-elect Joann Ariola echoed Langworthy’s statements about the legality of the bill at the press conference.
“What you are seeing today is a portion of this city council — the far left portion — who’s looking to break the law and go against the beloved constitution that they stand by when it’s convenient for them,” Ariola said.
She added that the current council is pushing the vote ahead before more, recently-elected Republican council members like herself take office on Jan. 1.
“They want to push this through,” she said. “They want to make sure that people like myself and the other members who are newly elected will not have a vote.”
Nine Queens council members are co-sponsoring the bill. Council Members Daniel Dromm, I. Daneek Miller, Jimmy Van Bramer, Antonio Reynoso, Adrienne Adams, Peter Koo, Selvena Brooks-Powers, Francisco Moya and Tiffany Cabán are among the bill’s sponsors.
They argue that people who pay taxes and use city services should have a say — at the ballot box — as to how their tax money is spent.
Queens Council Members Eric Ulrich, Barry Grodenchik, James Gennaro, Karen Koslowitz and Robert Holden have not signed on as sponsors.
Holden, a moderate Democrat, has been outspoken about his opposition to the legislation.
He told the Queens Post Friday that giving noncitizens the right to vote “cheapens the meaning of citizenship.” He also took exception with the requirement that voters only needed to be in the city for 30 days.
“I don’t think any right-minded [person] would say that we should give votes to individuals that have only been in New York City for 30 days,” Holden said.
He doesn’t believe the legislation will stand up to a legal challenge.
“I think this bill is so far-fetched,” Holden said. “I think we’re wasting our time in the City Council even talking about it.”