Niagara County pushes back against Green Light Law

Clerk and BOE commissioners file lawsuit to stop law from taking effect next month

Mike Baggerman
November 18, 2019 - 3:00 am

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - New York State's controversial Green Light Law will take effect on December 14 but the battle to stop the law from taking effect continues.

Niagara County Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski is the latest public official to enter the battle to stop the law. He and the two election commissioners in Niagara County have filed a lawsuit in New York State and argue that the bill to allow undocumented immigrants the opportunity to receive a driver's license is unconstitutional because it gives people in the country illegally the ability to cast a vote.

"There's no protection in regards to voter fraud," Jastrzemski told WBEN. "When you come to New York State and our DMV office, we have what's called a "verifone" and you're asked if you'd like to register to vote. Each and every individual that gets their driver's license or renews their license is asked that question. Once they're asked that question and they say yes...they hit that button and then they register on what they want to register as...Our clerks do not see this."

He said there is no safeguards that prevent someone from registering to vote.

Niagara County Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski. November 15, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns tried to sue the state at the federal level over the law. County attorneys argued that the clerk was either at risk of prosecution at the federal level if he knowingly gave undocumented immigrants a license or risk of removal from office by the governor if he refuses to enforce the law. Kearns' lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge earlier this month over a lack of standing.

"Our lawsuit is different than Mickey's," Jastrzemski said. "It's very disheartening what was ruled on in Erie County's lawsuit. They didn't rule on the merit whatsoever. It took 32 pages to say that he hasn't been affected by anything yet."

The lawsuit said that the law protects those who would register to vote illegally because "it prevents the underlying information about the registrants' illegal status from being turned over to law enforcement authorities without an order from a Federal District Court Judge".

Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola last week filed a lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction, similar to Kearns' lawsuit that was dismissed.

WBEN legal analyst Paul Cambria questioned whether Jastrzemski, like Kearns, has standing, even in a state court.

"They might be better off going in the state than they are in the federal side," Cambria said "But it's going to be a tough road ahead."

Cambria said it's a slim chance that the preliminary injunction is ruled and it's likely that the law will go into effect next month.


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