PILF Sues NYC Board of Elections Over Law Allowing Foreign Citizens to Vote

Published On: February 02nd, 2022

Lawsuit alleges foreign citizens voting violates the Fifteenth Amendment and that the law was passed with an illegal racial intent to hurt the power of black voters and change the racial composition of the New York City electorate.

(New York City, NY) – February 2, 2021: Today, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of New York against the New York City Board of Elections for violating the 15th Amendment. The Foundation’s clients are Phyllis Coachman, Deroy Murdock, Katherine James, and Anthony Gilhuys. All four are black NYC voters and American citizens.

In January, New York City enacted a law that allows foreign citizens to cast ballots in the city’s municipal elections. The 15th Amendment prohibits election procedures from being enacted with a racially discriminatory intent. The complaint alleges that the sponsors of the legislation made explicit statements evidencing the racial purpose of the law and engaged in conduct that demonstrated a racial purpose behind the proposal to allow foreign citizens to vote.

Sponsors spoke in favor of giving the right to vote to racial groups as opposed to merely noncitizens. The complaint also alleges that Census data demonstrate that foreigners voting will harm the voting strength of black voters in New York City, and that the sponsors knew this ahead of time. The sponsors of the bill are aware of this racial composition and passed the bill with the intent to strengthen the power of Hispanic and Asian powers and reduce the power of other racial groups. Of the approximately 1 million foreign nationals in New York City, approximately 488,000 are Hispanic and 343,000 are Asian.

The complaint also alleges that the enactment was characterized by deviation from normal procedures after the New York City Law Department counseled that the proposal violated New York home rule statutes and yet the City Council still passed the foreigner voting legislation.

Sponsors of the foreigner voting bill were explicit that race motivated their legislation and not merely giving non-citizens the right to vote,” said PILF President J. Christian Adams. “When election laws are passed with a racial motive, they violate the 15th Amendment and are invalid. The 15th Amendment prohibits any race-based voting restrictions. Legislators made statements that this was about race.  This law violates the Constitution. We are confident the Court will rule in our favor.”

Maureen Riordan, a native New Yorker and former Department of Justice Voting Section lawyer is counsel for PILF. Adams is also another DOJ Voting Section lawyer and was counsel in multiple similar and successful voting rights cases alleging an impermissible racial intent in election laws including Davis v. Guam, 932 F.3d 822 (9th Cir. 2019) (certdenied, No. 19-827 (U.S. 2020)).

Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) is a 501(c)(3) and the nation’s only public interest law firm dedicated wholly to election integrity. The Foundation exists to assist states and others to aid the cause of election integrity and fight against lawlessness in American elections. Drawing on numerous experts in the field, PILF seeks to protect the right to vote and preserve the Constitutional framework of American elections. PILF has brought lawsuits and won victories in Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and across the United States.


Public Interest Legal Foundation