Ariola Applauds Appellate Decision on Noncitizen Voting Law

By Katie McFadden

A noncitizen voting law passed in New York City in December 2021 has been ruled unconstitutional on appeal. Councilwoman Joann Ariola was one of sixteen officials to sign onto a lawsuit against the law that was blocked last week.

“When it was voted in 2021, this law would have allowed any non-American citizen like those holding a green card to be able to vote in our local elections,” Ariola explained, adding that this would have encompassed 800,000 people at the time, with likely even more qualifying since 170,000 migrants have entered New York City.

When Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella proposed a lawsuit against the new law, he invited others to join. Then newly elected Councilwoman Ariola joined right away. “I joined immediately because it is the right of an American citizen to vote,” she said. “If you work here and you’re here with a green card and you’re seeking citizenship, then you will one day become a citizen and have the privilege of voting. This would have given 800,000 people new voting rights. That is enough to move the needle in any election, and I think it would have been a detriment to the integrity of our elections. It was just too open ended, and it left too much leeway for voter fraud.”

In June 2022, Judge Ralph Porzio, of New York State Supreme Court for Staten Island, ruled the law violated the state constitution. Mayor Eric Adams and some city council members then appealed it. On February 21, in a three to one vote in the Appellate Division for the Second Judicial Department in New York, the judges ruled to uphold Judge Porzio’s decision. Ariola called it a big win for New Yorkers.

“I felt in my heart that there wasn’t any way we could lose because I knew this was unconstitutional,” she said. “I was very happy with the ruling because it’s important that we follow our laws the way they’re supposed to be followed. We don’t change our laws to fit a certain narrative of allowing noncitizens to vote, especially when you’re talking about 800,000 noncitizens, and we now have 170,000 more people here trying to apply for expediated work authorizations, expediated green cards and they would have been given the right to vote. American citizens have the right to vote because they are the ones here, they pay taxes and they would be most negatively or positively affected by the election, and this would have furthered people distrusting the election process and possibly further disengage American citizens from going out to vote.”

Mayor Adams has another opportunity to appeal this latest ruling. Ariola and the others on the lawsuit are hoping he chooses not to but are ready to keep fighting if necessary. “Our lawyers are confident that this would be a waste of the city’s taxpayer dollars. If he does appeal it, we will fight it again,” she said. “This was a matter of a very small group of committed people who signed onto this lawsuit and won, so I don’t want anyone to lose hope in this city. A small group of people can make a change and bring this city back to the way it used to be.”

In a matter even closer to home, Ariola was asked about where things left off with the Floyd Bennett Field migrant shelter injunction case. Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, Councilwoman Ariola and others made their case on that matter on January 18 in front of Judge Peter Sweeney at Kings County Supreme Court. Sweeney gave the city and state two weeks to respond. As things currently stand, Williams and Ariola are still awaiting a decision from Judge Sweeney. However, Ariola says they’re keeping the pressure on. “Our attorney called over to the judge’s law secretary. We don’t want to be waiting a long time for a decision and as new facts arise, we send them over. We don’t want a hasty decision, but we want a decision that does not linger and is handed down in our favor,” Ariola said. She is confident that a decision will come before the summer.

In the meantime, Ariola has been in contact with the mayor’s office to encourage the city to place a curfew for the migrants living at Floyd Bennett Field, as has been done at other migrant shelter, and has been working closely with the 100th Precinct to enforce any issues. “We had a meeting with law enforcement and the mayor’s office and the agencies that oversee Floyd Bennett, and it seems to be one of the areas where most of the panhandlers and those selling goods on the side of the road seem to be coming from. We’ve been pushing hard for enforcement and to prioritize Floyd Bennett on the list for curfews,” Ariola said. She also recently toured the shelter and discovered more issues such as many of the migrant children not attending school due to illness or other reasons. “We’re looking at every angle that we can and making sure while that base camp remains, it doesn’t have a negative impact on our community,” Ariola said.

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