November 17, 2022
Issue: General Immigration
Muslim Advocates, Immigrant Rights Groups Support Historic New York City Voting Rights Law
Washington, D.C. — Muslim Advocates alongside leading civil rights and immigrant justice organizations filed a brief in support of a historic New York voting rights law. The law, which would extend the right to vote to about 800,000 non-U.S. citizens, is being challenged from attacks by groups opposing voting rights.
“Enfranchising all people, including communities of color and immigrants, only strengthens our democracy because all, not some, New York City residents deserve to partake in their city’s governance. Our brief explains that U.S.-citizenship has long been used as an exclusionary tool and we support municipalities, like the City of New York, who move to remove this barrier,” said Reem Subei, senior staff attorney at Muslim Advocates.
Muslim Advocates filed the amicus brief in support of Local Law 11, which was passed by an overwhelming majority of the city council. Signatories on the brief include the Muslim Bar Association of New York, Muslim Community Network, National Lawyers Guild Rochester, Black Leadership Action Coalition, OneAmerica, JetPac, Islamophobia Studies Center and the UndocuBlack Network. Earlier this year, opponents of the law mounted a successful legal challenge in a Staten Island lower court. The city and residents appealed the Fossella v. Adams decision to the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department.
Non-U.S. citizen voting isn’t new. Many immigrants across the U.S. have been able to vote in their local elections for decades. Longtime New York City residents might remember that legal residents were allowed to vote in the city’s school board elections up until the boards were abolished in the early 2000s. Cities in Vermont and Maryland have long empowered their immigrant neighbors by extending access to the ballot box. San Francisco recently extended the vote to legal residents specifically for school board races until the law was struck down this year in a separate legal challenge by conservatives.
“It’s shameful to see right-wing skeptics of democracy latch onto Local Law 11 as an opportunity to fearmonger and stir up their base. We are hopeful that the appellate court will reject their offensive and incorrect vote dilution theory and instead restore the vote to nearly a million New Yorkers,” said Christopher Godshall-Bennett, staff attorney at Muslim Advocates.
Enfranchising more voters does not dilute the votes of existing voters, nor does it “disadvantage” any elected official or political party. Such arguments do not call into question mere election procedures but democracy itself. It’s apparent on the face of such a claim that conservatives are afraid of being held accountable to the very people whom they have vilified and scapegoated for so long.
Had the law not been struck down, newly eligible voters would have been able to register this December and vote in January 2023. Local Law 11 only encompasses a fraction of the city’s total non-U.S. citizen population. The law would have expanded the vote for municipal elections to Lawful Permanent Residents (aka green card holders) and those authorized to work in the U.S.
Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.