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Niagara County goes solo in lawsuit against state's Green Light Law

Mike Desmond
Legilsature Chair William Keith McNall signs the court papers.

Niagara County is suing Albany, claiming the system that allows people in the country illegally to get driver's licenses is unfair to citizens and, therefore, a violation of the Equal Protection provision of the New York State Constitution.

Niagara is one of many counties fighting what is called the Green Light Law, but the county is going off on its own, separately from others.

County Attorney Claude Joerg had a signing ceremony Tuesday to allow County Legislature Chair Keith McNall and County Clerk Joseph Jastrzemski to sign the court papers in front of reporters. Elections Commissioners Jennifer Sandonato and Lora Allen had already signed. The papers go to court Wednesday morning.

Goerg said the law sets different rules for citizens and non-citizens.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Niagara County lawmakers explain their solo court case.

"An applicant who is not legally present in the United States can present a foreign passport, foreign driver's license and other foreign documents, which actually expire, for up to two years as a proof of identity," Goerg said, "whereas a United States citizen with an expired U.S. passport or an expired out-of-state driver's license cannot present those documents to prove his or her identity."

Joerg said it is important to challenge the law because he does not want New York to be like California, where he believes 100, 000 non-citizens voted, based on blog postings he showed reporters. He said there were no criminal charges filed because that was too many people to charge.

He said the linked process of driver registration and voter registration bypasses safeguards at the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

"They can check the box that they are here as a U.S. citizen. They can register to vote and there is not one safeguard anywhere throughout the voter system to catch them," he said. "What's worse is that our employees and commissioners at the Board of Elections never get this information, this documentation, because the statute itself precludes and prevents this information from going to the Board of Elections so they can verify the voter registration rolls."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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