Norwood News: Coalition Seeks to Stop Republican-Led Lawsuit Challenging the “Our City, Our Vote” Bill

Image for Norwood News: Coalition Seeks to Stop Republican-Led Lawsuit Challenging the “Our City, Our Vote” Bill
A VOTE HERE sign is taped to a railing in the Norwood section of the Bronx. Credit: Síle Moloney/Norwood News.

By Síle Moloney/Norwood News

LatinoJustice PRLDEF, community partners, and pro-bono counsel, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, announced on Tuesday, April 12, that they have collectively filed a motion to challenge a lawsuit which seeks to reverse the recently approved municipal voting rights bill in New York City, a bill which would extend the right to vote to eligible non-citizens in municipal elections. The move constitutes the first time LatinoJustice and partners will act jointly on the matter before a New York State judge.

According to its website, LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering communities and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education.

In reference to the latest legal intervention by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the group’s associate counsel, Fulvia Vargas-De Leon, said, “At a time when hundreds of anti-voting laws are being introduced around the country, attempting to silence voters of color, we feel it’s imperative to stand up for a law that expands democratic participation in our city, by extending the ability to have a say in how their communities are run to almost one million immigrant New Yorkers.”

In the case of Fosella v. Adams, a group of Republican voters and elected officials are suing The City of New York, in order to reverse the bill (as yet unsigned by the mayor, but approved by City Council) that allows New Yorkers who are legal, permanent residents or who are authorized to work in the United States, a path to vote in municipal elections. The lawsuit, brought by Republican voters and others, asks the NY Supreme Court on Staten Island to block the passage of the bill into law, and prohibit non-citizens from registering to vote in such municipal elections.

Intro 1867, dubbed the “Our City, Our Vote” bill, approved by the City Council in December 2021, would give over 800,000 eligible, noncitizen New Yorkers the right to vote in city elections, making it the most significant voter expansion initiative in the City’s democracy in over a century. The law would not extend to State or federal elections.

Jerry Vattamala, director of the democracy program at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), said, “Asian residents across New York City have suffered continuous and increasing anti-Asian violence, the highest poverty rate of any racial group, and unnecessary institutional barriers to accessing social services.”

He added, “The Asian population in New York City grew the fastest of any racial group over the past decade, yet our community does not have the representation that it needs to address these integral community issues. Restoring voting rights to almost a million city residents is the right thing to do and must be defended by our communities.”

Organizations which have signed up to challenge the Republican voter-led lawsuit include Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF); Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI); Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York (CAIR-NY); LatinoJustice PRLDEF; and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.