First African-Americans got the vote. Then women. Now it’s immigrants’ turn.
Mayor John DeStefano presented that natural trajectory of American historical voting rights as he began selling a new campaign for state approval to let non-citizen New Haveners—whether they’re living here legally or not—vote in municipal elections.
DeStefano plans to ask a state legislative committee to introduce a bill in the upcoming session to give New Haven approval to offer non-citizen residents that vote.
Meanwhile, the secretary of the state’s office is questioning the legality of DeStefano’s proposal, suggesting a state constitutional amendment may be needed first, Mary O’Leary reports in this Register article.
In the wake of the fallout, DeStefano met with reporters Wednesday in the mayor’s conference room in City Hall to explain the rationale behind his latest immigrant-friendly proposal. (Click on the play arrow for highlights.) His administration previously made national headlines by introducing an immigrant-friendly municipal ID card and having the police issue a general order directing cops not to check immigration papers on routine police calls. A vibrant Ecuadorian community, among others, has grown in town along with those measures.
As with his earlier policy initiatives, DeStefano finds himself serving as a spokesman of sorts for a different direction in American policy toward immigrants, amid an anti-immigrant wave in other regions of the country and crackdowns against newcomers who lack legal permission to be here.
DeStefano said roughly 10,000 to 12,000 undocumented immigrants live in New Haven. He said they should participate in local elections.
“All I’m just saying is that like women and African-Americans before them, this is a class of individuals that are precluded from having a say in the community in which they’re a part of.
“I think it’s time—like it became time for women and African-Americans—to look at what their voting rights are,” DeStefano said.
Several Maryland municipalities already allow non-citizen voting, including Takoma Park, which granted illegal immigrants the right to vote in 1992. Chicago allows non-citizens to vote in school board elections. The proposal has failed in some other cities, such as San Francisco and Portland, Maine.
DeStefano proposes asking the state legislature, in its next session that runs from February to May, to create a pilot program that would allow non-citizens to vote. That includes not just undocumented immigrants, but the roughly 5,000 non-citizens who teach and study at Yale as well as the 200 refugees who arrive in New Haven per year. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy Tuesday came out against the idea. (Read about that here.)
“I’m just saying if you live here, you work here, you pay taxes here—I think it’s reasonable that you have a say about what goes on,” DeStefano said at the Tuesday afternoon session.
“I agree citizenship is a special thing,” DeStefano said. But the federal government has failed to implement a coherent immigration policy or create a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented residents who live in the nation. While the federal government has been moving to deport more undocumented immigrants, the Internal Revenue Services has been happy to collect income tax revenue from many of them, DeStefano pointed out.
The mayor said he has been clear with undocumented residents: “We expect you to pay taxes,” not to break laws, and “we expect you to be part of building the fabric of the place.”
DeStefano called his latest proposal all-American.
“I think a fundamental value that’s inscribed in the Statue of Liberty that we send all our children to visit is [the idea that] the uniqueness and distinctiveness of this nation has been built on robust immigration policies. One of the reasons we’ve become an economically and morally powerful country is because of immigration,” he said.
“Do I understand that folks have frustrations and fears? Sure I do, because my grandparents were subject to it as Italian Catholics.”
Those fears are unfounded, the mayor argued.
When the city launched the municipal ID card, “you would have thought the world was going to end. Well the world didn’t end.” The program saved seniors money on drivers licenses and promoted better relationships between cops and community, he argued.
“I understand why people are afraid of change, but I think it’s a change that’s consistent with the core value of America—a very optimistic, powerful, positive vision of America.”
“I don’t think we need to be afraid of these folks,” he continued. “While I understand people’s concerns, I think if they scratch their own skin a little bit, they’ll find that they are the same concerns that were expressed about their parents and grandparents years ago.”
Muro Presses Mayor
As he pitched the new plan, WTNH’s Jamie Muro challenged the mayor. He questioned why voting rights should be extended to those who have broken immigration law.
“Let me get you there a different way,” DeStefano replied.
“What it means to be a citizen, and what the rights and privileges of citizenship are have changed over time,” as the Constitution extended voting rights to African-Americans and women. The new proposal “is consistent with [a pattern of] always broadening the meaning of citizenship.”
He refuted the notion that he’s just trying to create a new bloc of voters to reelect him.
“Believe me, I don’t think this is necessarily, like, a big win in electoral politics, because it’s a change and people get nervous about change.
“I think it’s consistent with what America has done. And I think it’s like a lot of things in life—when you first hear about it, you think the world’s going to end. When you then reflect back on it, I think it’s like the Resident ID card program here in New Haven: Most people feel pretty good about it, and are now sort of thinking like, ‘What was the big deal with this thing?’”
“The idea is that when you live in a city, you are essentially a citizen of that city, which is separate form federal or national citizenship,” Wucker said Tuesday. “The logic is that everybody is better off when everyone on their block and in their town has a stake in staying on top of issues and working together and to get safe and clean streets, good schools, reliable transportation, and good health care.
“The other part of the argument is that from the beginning of U.S. history until the 1920s, non-citizen voting was very common, at one point in 44 states and territories, at various levels. The movement now is for local elections. In most cases, with the exceptions of school boards, it’s for people who have their papers, who are legal. This is not illegal immigrants voting for president.”
1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Amendment 15 - Race No Bar to Vote. Ratified 2/3/1870.
1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Amendment 19 - Women’s Suffrage. Ratified 8/18/1920. History
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
All three articles to the U.S. Constitution clearly emphasizes the right of citizens…
It does not make reference to the rights of non-citizens to vote.
posted by: LOL on December 14, 2011 8:22pm
... The mayor ought to be focusing more on discipling the delinquent parents in this city ... the ones who routinely fail to show for parent-teacher conferences and habitually get their children to school late.
Oh, wait. That will cost him votes.
posted by: VD on December 14, 2011 9:53pm
I’d rather see my property taxes lowered or at least flatlined, have the issue of a failing school district truly addressed (let’s start with an adequate number of textbooks for all schools and then move up the ladder), address the lack of funds in the city’s coffers, and have the incredible crime rate tackled. These are issues I can and do support.
Immigrants voting? It’s so out of context for what’s needed at this point. I’ve really got to wonder if Mr. Mayor is vying for an outside job, is appealing to a new base, or is trying to deflect from all the important, but unflattering issues that plague the city? It’s just plain pot stirring.
posted by: R. A. Gibson on December 14, 2011 10:01pm
Are there not enough urgent and pressing city-wide issues for this administration to address like high crime and unemployment, high taxes, low test scores and low graduation rates, high anxiety and low morale, without expending energy, time and taxpayers’ dollars challenging the Constitution of the United States and its definition of American citizenship and voting rights? We can’t even get the correct information sent to us about our property revaluation and the mayor wants to focus on extending the franchise to people who are not citizens of the United States! The mayor needs to focus on the needs of the city of New Haven. The mayor may have made national news with this controversial suggestion, but how will this effect the city financially?
posted by: The Professor on December 14, 2011 10:30pm
You’re right, none of the voting amendments references the right of noncitizens to vote—it’s not a Constitutional right; if it were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
But were women BARRED from voting before the 19th Amendment was ratified? No, they weren’t. By the time the 19th Amendment was ratified, women had been voting for 40 years in Wyoming, and already had the franchise in several other states. Similarly, there were places where blacks could vote before the ratification of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.
The voting amendments create a Constitutional FLOOR on voting rights. I’m inclined to support the Mayor’s plan, but I understand that reasonable people can disagree on this. But I think it ultimately boils down to a philosophical and ethical disagreement, not a factual one. John DeStefano’s plan doesn’t amount to rewriting the Constitution; don’t pretend that it does.
Again, the 14th Amendment sets a floor on who can vote. Not sure how this plan in any way goes against the 14th.
If people are going to leave New Haven because the Mayor is proposing to allow all the people who pay taxes and send their kids to school here vote on the people who decide where that money goes and how their kids are taught, that’s their prerogative.
Generally, I think the Mayor’s plan is ethically defensible. As I implied above, if someone pays taxes, plays by the rules, and contributes to the community, why shouldn’t they have a seat at the table when it comes to community decisions? I think that logistically it might be tough as far as having undocumented residents vote, but I think it’s an easy call for those who have green cards.
What’s the rationale for not allowing noncitizens to vote in State and Federal elections? It’s essentially national security. And it makes perfect sense—I don’t think anyone disputes the notion that it’s not a good idea to allow people who owe allegiance to a foreign sovereign voting for the people who make our sovereign decisions. But New Haven isn’t a State in the Union, and it’s certainly not the Federal government—it’s a municipal corporation chartered by the State. The same sovereignty interests just aren’t there, and that’s not something you can get around [...]
posted by: kt500 on December 14, 2011 10:42pm
I can see where Mayor DeStefano is coming from. The problem is not with his thoughtful solution, but with the industries that hire and promote illegal entry into this country to undercut the wages of local labor. We are all the product of both legal and illegal immigration and when it gets right down to it… we stole our placement here from the original inhabitants.
To give undocumented workers a stake in the communities they live in is brilliant in that it will make those communities safer and more productive… And will help the local economies by extending the tax base.
Until the federal government shuts off the spigot by prosecuting and incarcerating business owners and CEOs for hiring illegals, why not turn lemons into lemonade?
posted by: brutus2011 on December 14, 2011 11:50pm
I think the key is the legal definition of a citizen or what constitutes citizenship?
Also, can a person be a citizen of Connecticut and not be a citizen of the USA? Or can a person be a citizen of New Haven and not of CT or the USA? (this rhetorical question is to delineate the absurdity of this) (and to “The Professor”-you surprise me with your opinion-you certainly are not an intellectual and/or constitutional historian)
If one checks the CT Constitution, a voter (or elector) is described as a citizen eligible to vote in a municipal or state election.
Does an illegal immigrant, or a non-citizen, have voting status according to the fundamental law of our state?
No reading of the language of the CT State Constitution allows for non-citizen voting either in a state or local election.
Next questions is: is there a fair and equitable process in place for non-citizens to become citizens?
There definitely is.
If a person is a non-citizen, regardless of origin, then the process of becoming a citizen is clear and open. Then the vote is enshrined in fundamental law at our state level and the national level.
Why is the mayor trying to lump the struggle for the franchise of African American CITIZENS and female CITIZENS with the issue of illegal immigrants?
If you are an illegal immigrant then become legal and become US citizens.
Join us and vote.
posted by: Just a Thought on December 15, 2011 12:16am
Did anyone pick up on the words that the Mayor used in his interview. He stated he feels that individuals who work, live, and “pay taxes” should be be able to vote for who they believe should be in office. If the illegal immigrants “paid taxes”, maybe he would have a point, but they don’t. Instead they take from our tax base. So if A plus B equals C, the bottom line is the Mayor wants the tax payers to support the non-tax payers, so the Mayor can get more votes. At least he’s consistent with his methods he has used for years. What illegal immigrant “wouldn’t” vote for Destefano? The non-tax payers have supported him his whole career. And we wonder why the city is where it’s at???
posted by: Vivian on December 15, 2011 1:30am
Note to the author of this piece:
You have now become nothing but a panderer. When I arrived here in New Haven, this site quickly became my choice for the REAL “news” in New Haven.
Seeing the rapidity with which the writers here utilize innuendo, sensationalism, outright attempts to curry favor ,via juxtaposition of journalistic integrity and outright and blatant pandering to the lowest common denominator, I am supremely disappointed.
Now that I know that this entity is shared, with and by the New Haven Register, I am completely satisfied to get my news from other sources. Printed and On-line, it does not make a difference.
A “news” source that practices pandering and flip-flopping to remain afloat is not a news source. It is more like a teen-aged “Wall” on a social media site.
posted by: DingDong on December 15, 2011 2:07am
I have to say Johhny is a real enigma. One day he’s a crass, machine politician who stops at nothing to stay mayor, but the next he’s revealing a visionary and human side, showing there are a few issues he really cares about and that he’s willing to take risks on.
It’s touching to see him talk about immigration and immigrants’ rights because he really does seem to care about these issues, he has really admirable views about them, and he has the courage to really be a leader in advocating for them and implementing them. But every once and a while a little doubt creeps into my admiration for him and makes me wonder to what degree this is motivated by his desire to raise his national profile in case he ever decides to stop being mayor. In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter what I think; it’s not like we have real elections here.
posted by: Vivian on December 15, 2011 2:33am
You state the following: “if someone pays taxes, plays by the rules,.....”
Please expound upon the operative word “IF”, as well as your, evidently personal, concept of “play(ing) by the “RULES”.
Whose rules and what is “if” ?
Do we have room for those who ignore your parameters ? ...
posted by: Curious on December 15, 2011 5:28am
This is going to draw more illegal immigrants here,and New Haven doesn’t have illegal immigrant jobs to spare. We’re not a meat packing or crop picking city.
An influx of illegal immigrants is going to put them in direct competition for unskilled jobs, which is EXACTLY the opposite of what New Haven needs.
All y’all screaming to train unskilled workers in New Haven…what do you think will happen when the unskilled labor pool swells from this?
posted by: Whats next? on December 15, 2011 6:39am
Destefano’s next move is to request that all democrats get to vote 5 times, everyone else only gets 1 vote
posted by: Mike on December 15, 2011 7:38am
I could list all the problems with this city that the mayor should be working on FULL TIME but I dont think I need to. This new issue he has been promoting makes me sick to my stomach, we/he has too much on the plate right now to bring this up.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 15, 2011 7:46am
How come you don’t hear from the people who vote the King Back in.Were are the unions who vote for king john on this.
posted by: pkust on December 15, 2011 8:26am
The first sentence of this article is flawed. Women and blacks were citizens of this country. To put them on par with people illegally in the country is nonsensical. By extension, then why not let anyone who is within our borders to vote in elections, including foreigners here on vacation. That way, 10,000 Venezuelans can come over for a week and dicate who our next President is, sent by Hugo Chavez. Citizens of other countries should not vote and pick our leaders. We are losing our democracy bit by bit with these liberals loading the voting rolls will illegal votes, cheating, lying and stealing their way on elections. Witness the emerging and seemingly uncontrovertible evidence of voter petition fraud suggesting Obama illegally got put on the primary ballot in one state. These dishonest efforts by leftists to corrupt the voting process must end.
No one from his office could have taken the 5 minutes to find out if this would require State Constitutional amendments? Or call Malloy and ask him what he thought?
What do we pay them for? This amounts to a press release, a photo opp, and a “mission accomplished” moment for DeStefano.
In six month, DeStefano loyalists won’t even remember this, or will see DeStefano as the “victim” of anti-immigration policies.
Remember Resident ID, which was supposed to get every undocumented citizen a bank account & help them access city services?
Where are the metrics on it?
While the NEW Start Bank will accept Resident ID, the tellers and people who actually open accounts don’t know this. Through a lot of perseverance (2 in person visits and 6 phone calls and a call to Amy Meek who—bless her heart—contacted Start and asked them why they denied me) I was FINALLY able to get an employee at the bank to tell me I could open an account with a city ID.
What undocumented person—who has English as a second or third language—is going to go to those lengths to open an account?
Much like all of our cities initiatives, this one has no metrics, no independent review, no follow-up.
The Mayor’s office is a source of platitudes, good intentions, and laudable thoughts.
So is my facebook wall.
I expect a little more from the Mayor’s office than I expect from my coffee chats with fellow liberals.
If this was all it took, I’d start calling myself Mayor. I want to convert the prisons into employment centers and universities which provide free service to all convicted criminals. Where is my press release?
posted by: Stephen Harris on December 15, 2011 8:53am
The CT constitution requires electors to be U.S. citizens. Illegal Aliens don’t meet that requirement.
This is a cart before the horse thing. Either the federal government must first clear a path to citizenship (preferred), or Connecticut must change it’s constitution to permit illegal aliens to vote. And then any such voting would only apply to local and state elections, not for any federal office: Those who live in U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico, cannot vote in federal elections.
But the larger issue is fairness. It is unfair to those who went through the naturalization process, and earned citizenship, to permit illegals to vote.
Citizenship is indeed special.
posted by: Stephen Harris on December 15, 2011 8:55am
Correction. My post is for “The Professor”. My apologies.
posted by: Claudia Bosch on December 15, 2011 8:56am
Dec. 17th marks the day that I legally immigrated in 2002 into this country to marry my American husband, start a family and live here.
Would voting on the local level be nice? Yes. All long-term LEGAL immigrants of New Haven probably agree on that.
But if there was ever a slight chance to get that privilege DeStefano destroyed it by including illegals into his proposal.
Realistically: how do you want to prove that an undocumented resident is a “part of the community”? Since undocumented implies that there are no documents to prove this (to fake a water bill in 2011 should not be that hard - and what about proving reliably your age ...).
What does “part of the community” mean when it comes down to it? Sending your child to a New Haven school? Well - then Hamden parents of magnet school children should be allowed to vote in New Haven. Employees of the City of New Haven obviously are some part of the community too. So again - extend the right to vote to all folks working for or in New Haven too - regardless where they reside ...
Again: DeStefano does not care about my voting rights. He cares about diverting our attention from his mismanagement.
In addition: I do NOT want to be grouped in with illegal immigrants. AND: Even without voting rights I can & do participate in the political processes.
posted by: The Un-Professor on December 15, 2011 9:06am
Sorry, but voting IS a constitutional right, guaranteed to “citizens” by the federal Constitution, as well as by the CT state Constitution. Neither state nor federal constitutional provisions allow non-citizens to vote.
That should be the end of discussion, except John didn’t realize that the state constitution also defined eligible voters to be citizens. (How embarrassing). Now he and the “Professor” are trying to punt and make up some silly argument that the unambiguous language is a “floor”, and not really a definition. Makes for good copy, but legally it’s going NOWHERE.
@ R A Gibson: I agree, lets keep the focus of public discussion where it belongs—New Haven is in fiscal jeopardy, the re-val process is a nightmare, and the city budget is coming due. None of this relates to non-citizens voting.
posted by: PhillyRock on December 15, 2011 9:28am
“Citizen” means nothing in DeStefano’s world. This new direction of his is absurd.
posted by: westville man on December 15, 2011 9:49am
I find this whole issue strange in that we have US citizens, born and raised here, who have committed low level felonies, served their time, then reclaim their lives and occupations but are forever barred from voting. Shouldn’t they be given a chance to become part of the community again? This proposal smacks of political expediency to me.
posted by: Curious on December 15, 2011 10:40am
Maybe this is a red herring, but I would still like the people who support this idea to answer one question.
If this passed, who will all the new immigrants who moved here take jobs from?
posted by: Bill Saunders on December 15, 2011 10:45am
This is the story of a failed financial manager, posing as a visionary, posturing for a future political appointment because he can finally read the writing on the wall.
posted by: William Kurtz on December 15, 2011 11:08am
The Professor is right on the facts:
“Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, who is a bona fide resident of the town in which he seeks to be admitted as an elector and who takes such oath, if any, as may be prescribed by law, shall be qualified to be an elector.”
In formal logical terms, citizenship is a sufficient condition for enfranchisement, but not a necessary one according to a strict reading of the relevant language in the state and federal constitutions. I imagine, though, that there’s certainly some statutory language and legal precedent to think about.
posted by: Tina Tucci on December 15, 2011 11:51am
So folks, what’s the point in being a citizen?
posted by: Claudia Bosch on December 15, 2011 11:51am
I am not a lawyer.
“Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, who is a bona fide resident of the town in which he seeks to be admitted as an elector and who takes such oath, if any, as may be prescribed by law, shall be qualified to be an elector.”
I read (and interpret) this as the following:
“Every citizen of the US [who ... (now the details about the “citizens of the US”, all these sub-parts start with who - all are part of adverbial phrases linked back to “every citizen of the U.S”], shall be qualified to be an elector.”
It is “every citizen”. There is no wiggle room. For me this looks like a “conditio sine qua non”. Necessary. Not just sufficient.
But I am not a lawyer. And English is my second language. I learned it at school which reminds me about improving New Haven schools. Missing textbooks. High drop-out rates. Opaque budgeting processes ...
posted by: Mister Jones on December 15, 2011 11:56am
Just A Thought repeats the fallacy that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes. It’s just not true. Renters pay property taxes, indirectly through their landlords. They pay sales tax to the state when they buy things. And most have taxes taken out of their pay but don’t get the benefit of Social Security and tax refunds. I don’t doubt that some are working under the table for businesses skirting the law, but that stereotype ignores the facts on the ground, that most have on-the-books jobs with pretty convincing fake green cards.
posted by: brutus2011 on December 15, 2011 12:11pm
I must reply to “William Kurtz:”
If one reads, strictly or otherwise, Article Sixth (qualifications of electors) of the Constitution of the State of Connecticut, then citizenship is a necessary condition of the franchise and not just a sufficient condition.
A formal logic use of the word “must” is usually associated with “necessary.” In the wording of Article Sixth, the word “shall” is used in place of “must.” That is because the act of voting is a choice, but the eligibility to vote is enumerated in Article Sixth of the CT ST Constitution.
According to my reading, citizenship is indeed a necessary, and not merely a sufficient, condition to vote in CT.
posted by: KB on December 15, 2011 12:31pm
Non-citizen voting was common place in the 1800s and early 1900s. It was done away with by the progressive movement for a major reason - voting fraud. Allowing undocumented aliens to vote reopens the door to fraud. And, it seems almost too coincidental that this idea comes shortly after DeStefano won a reasonably close election.
There is a huge difference between allowing undocumented aliens to vote in local elections versus those that are documented and here legally.
Also - the idea that allowing undocumented aliens to vote is akin to expanding voting rights to African Americans or Women is ridiculous. Women and African Americans were officially citizens of the country - aliens are not citizens and undocumented aliens are not even in the country legally. How is denying someone the right to vote when they do not even have the right to be in the country unjust?
By DeStefano’s logic we should also allow employers to hire undocumented aliens - this too would allow them to be full participants in the community.
Finally, the idea that paying taxes means you have the right to vote in the city is also ridiculous. There are many property holders in the city that are not residents. Should they be allowed to vote? There are people who come to the city to stay in hotels and to shop - they pay sales and hotel taxes - do they deserve the right to vote.
This idea is no idea at all. It is merely a political ploy to firm up support for the next election and to distract residents of the city from other issues - the murder rate and that property taxes will be increasing.
posted by: William Kurtz on December 15, 2011 12:32pm
I’m not lawyer, either. But “every</i> citizen shall be” is a very different statement than “only a citizen shall be”.
The second statement would indeed make citizenship a sine qua non, but the language as it stands only guarantees that citizens who meet the age and resident requirements shall be qualified as electors.
For comparison, let’s imagine I am telling you about a person named ‘Pat’ who I know and you do not. And let’s imagine that you are not sure whether ‘Pat’ is a man or a woman (Patrick or Patricia).
If I say that ‘Pat is my best friend’s mother’ that fact is sufficient to know that she’s a woman—but it’s not necessary for her to be anyone’s mother for her to be a woman.
posted by: Just a Thought on December 15, 2011 12:34pm
Mister Jones- The landlords of these homes who rent to illegal immigrants are slum lords, who take cash and allow those homes to fall apart. They pay taxes whether that have the proper occupancy or if their renters over load the apartments, which is very common with illegals. You also need to switch your wording, “some” pay taxes through their employers, not “most”. “Most” are paid under the table, not “some”. And as far as paying sales tax, it’s very hard to avoid that process.
Bottom line, what they do contribute, doesn’t come close to what they take. I hope you never get hit by one one them in a car accident. Although insurance companies don’t care if they’re illegal and would be glad to provide insurance for them. For some reason the illegals use the excuse that they can’t get insurance because they’re illegal. just another reason why our insurance rates in the city are so high.
I understand your compassion, but don’t be naive. I think the government should make them legal, so they can be a positive contributor to our tax base. Unfortunately, they’ve allowed it to get out of control and are now back pedaling to find the answer.
posted by: William Kurtz on December 15, 2011 12:44pm
With respect, Brutus2011, your reading is objectively wrong, and not just a matter of interpretation.
First, the word ‘must’ appears neither in the original text of Article 6, sec. 1, nor in the 1976 amendment.
But let’s assume for the sake of conversation that ‘shall’ and ‘must’ are exactly synonymous and interchangeable.
Then, let’s pull the modifiers from the amended text and look at the subject-verb core:
‘Every citizen . . . shall [must] be qualified to be an elector.’
That voting is a choice doesn’t enter into it. The only obligation placed on anyone by the Constitution is on the state—it must qualify as an elector anyone who meets those minimum requirements.
Anyway, I’m neither defending nor challenging Mayor DeStefano’s idea right now—like the Professor said, I think it’s “ethically defensible” even if I don’t know exactly what I think about it right now. What I do know is that there’s nothing in Article 6 of the state constitution to prevent it.
posted by: cedarhillresident on December 15, 2011 12:57pm
Still against it. No argument will change my mind about the voting. I agree with Tina “what’s the point in being a citizen?”
I also think it was down right shade of the mayor to try to lump it into one big battle.
The ICE move and voting are two separate issues. And if we stand to fight against ice, it APPEARS we also agree with the voting. WHICH I DO NOT. so I have to stay clear of it. And so are others. I think it was a mistake to try to roll them into one. Snakey stut.
In fact, no US citizen is “forever barred from voting” in Connecticut because of a felony! This is a widespread misconception that I keep seeing in these comments.
Under state law, someone who’s served his or her time (including parole) has the right to register to vote, no matter what the conviction. (The one exception is violations of state election law—but even then, you simply have to wait until you’ve completed probation before you can register to vote, so it’s still not a lifetime ban.)
posted by: Rob on December 15, 2011 1:23pm
I pledge now to never vote for Mr. D and to always vote for his opposition. This is pure pandering and should be seen for what it is - a desperate attempt to remain viable in a City that he has failed. How does this effort address the cancer in our city that is the incredibly high crime? How does this address the economic distress we are experiencing? Jobs? Answer: it doesn’t. Period. It’s time for you to go John.
posted by: vanessa on December 15, 2011 1:27pm
John must be trying to set himself for some kind of post- mayoral job because he clearly is not running for reelection.The way they treat immigrants is terrible and anti-american and there needs to be a path towards citizenship but this isn’t it this is just John trying to get attention
THIS MEANS THAT ANYONE IN THE WORLD CAN VOTE IN OUR ELECTIONS.
HAVE WE LOST OUR MINDS????
posted by: The Professor on December 15, 2011 1:45pm
I assume your comment about “playing by the rules” is a shot at those who are living in New Haven without authorization from our federal government. I suppose I should’ve seen that coming, but I have to say, the reason I didn’t address that argument preemptively is that it’s just such a bad one on its face.
When people say “play by the rules,” I don’t think we should be taken to mean “follow every single law to the letter.” There are two reasons for this: first, it ignores the fact that it’s actually pretty immoral to let your ethical actions be guided by merely following every law to the letter, no more and no less. What does it say about somebody who does exactly what the law requires? You’re seeing the problem with this right now at Penn State, where Joe Paterno followed the law to its letter. Second, and I think more applicable to this situation, everybody breaks some law or another ALL. THE. TIME. But you know what? We don’t always go around summarily stripping people’s rights because of it. We don’t take people’s drivers licenses because they got a speeding ticket, unless it’s a really egregious one, for instance. We realize that for a variety of reasons, people don’t follow every single law to a T, and some of those reasons make sense, or at least enough sense that we don’t feel a need to be remarkably punitive.
This seems like an analogous situation. Are those in the country without authorization from the feds violating a law? Yes. But it seems like they’re violating the law the same way a parent is violating the law when he is speeding to the hospital because he just found out his child is in the ER, or the same way an impoverished child breaks the law when he steals a candy bar because he’s hungry. The fact of the matter is that a lot of these are people who are willing to go through hell and back (and in some cases have actually gone through it!) to care for their families. These are PRECISELY the kind of people who we want having a stake in our civic life.
What’s the point of becoming a citizen? Let’s see, you get to vote in state and federal elections, you get to avail yourself of consular services abroad, you get to actually run for office, you can’t be deported for any reason…shall I go on? We’re talking about letting people vote for their aldermen, not make strategic military decisions for the love of God.
posted by: The Professor on December 15, 2011 2:00pm
Well, James, presumably they’d have to show some proof that they actually live in New Haven to vote…and strictly speaking, it’s not that tough for someone who, in practical terms, doesn’t live in New Haven to vote in municipal elections—just has to be someone who’s “permanently domaciled” in New Haven who spends most of their time elsewhere (think college students).
But this does get at an important issue that I feel I’ve given short shrift—how do those who are in the country without authorization go about proving their residence in New Haven? I think that’s an important logistical issue, and I think it’s a much bigger concern than the “oh my dear Lord they’re in the country illegally so they’re inherently bad people” canard. So while I’ve made it pretty clear that I see no problem legally or ethically with extending the right to vote for Aldermen—a right, by the way, that New Haveners haven’t exactly been zealous in exercising themselves—to those in the country without the feds’ express approval. But it does seem like there are some huge practical issues.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 15, 2011 2:04pm
Everyone can go Back and fourth.But the bottom line is under current law,They have enter this country Illegally.
posted by: Noteworthy on December 15, 2011 2:11pm
1. DeStefano gave this about as much thought as it took him to eat a Big Mac.
2. His large staff had not even done minimum spade work on the subject.
3. It is fraught with all kinds of practical problems in terms of implementation/enforcement.
4. This pronouncement stepped all over DeStefano’s planned news of the day which was to fight the ICE Safe Communities effort, which ICE is NOT rolling out to New Haven.
5. This reminds me of when DeStefano was running for governor and announced the City ID card - his approval numbers state-wide immediately went into the toilet and he was trounced in election. It was more of an oops moment than a well thought out public policy.
6. Special Note to John DeStefano: We are not afraid of change or of immigrants. To say so is to demean us. Believe it or not, some of us actually believe in rules, and laws and transparency. Generally, we think you ought to obey them like traffic signals, and carrying insurance and having a driving license.
More importantly though, is that citizenship is sacred. It comes with rights and responsibilities. To trample on it and make it common like buying something in Walmart is neither smart nor patriotic.
I take great exception to the idea this is a natural progression in voting rights too. It is not. Our Constitution is very specific about who is a citizen in this country and for visitors who want to become a naturalized citizen, there is a pathway via public policy even if that pathway is flawed. For women and African Americans, our Constitution simply refined who was not to be excluded from voting. But the bottom line is those are groups who were ALREADY citizens. They were not groups of people who crashed the gate, cut in line and failed to follow the rules.
While you are correct, the federal government has done a miserable job of refining and reforming our national immigration policy, that failure sir, does not give you the right to arbitrarily circumvent what is clearly the current Constitution, Bill of Rights, our state Constitution and our immigration policy.
7. This is a result of a close election and this is an effort to stuff the ballot box.
8. You should have run on this policy.
9. This is a smokescreen to divert attention away from the budget, the property revaluation debacle.
10. This city has so many serious problems. You may be tired of dealing with them Mr. DeStefano and they may not be sexy. But it’s time to quit playing around and govern now that you were elected. Simply moving the chairs around and almost randomly deciding who sits in them is not the end of our problems. Those department head changes do not a solution make. It’s time to actually solve our problems and not platitude or pretend them to death. That’s not a strategy.
If you don’t want to do that, resign.
posted by: B. Hebee on December 15, 2011 6:34pm
I would like to vote in Mexico while on vacation next month. Do you think DeStefano hook me up?
posted by: Stephen Harris on December 16, 2011 7:19am
Just to reiterate.
Here’s the relevant language from the CT constitution again:
“Section 1 of article sixth of the constitution is amended to read as follows: Every citizen of the United States who has attained the age of eighteen years, who is a bona fide resident of the town in which he seeks to be admitted as an elector and who takes such oath, if any, as may be prescribed by law, shall be qualified to be an elector.
Adopted November 24, 1976”.
“Every citizen of the United States…”. Stop. In order to understand what this provision means, the reader needs to find out who is a citizen of the United States. The place to turn is the Federal Constitution which defines citizen in the 14th Amendment as someone either born here or naturalized.
Those claiming illegal aliens can vote are simply wrong on the facts.
Congress needs to first clear a path to citizenship. Once that is done, then those persons will be citizens and can vote.
Sometimes the law is clear.
posted by: westville man on December 16, 2011 9:05am
Thanks for the clarification; however, my reading indicates that while CT has only several hurdles for convicted felons to overcome to vote again, nearly 30 states have greater restrictions than CT and 2 of them, for all practical purposes, bar them for life.
posted by: nhteaparty on December 16, 2011 10:45am
This is complete BS. If John wants to save the world he can do it on his dime, not mine.
I didn’t do anything other than vote last election, but this time around I will volunteer to help get JD out.
The only thing that will change my mind are two things: Enforce the noise ordinance. I’m sick of being woken up at 4 am by drug dealers zipping through the neighborhood in their modified muffler hondas blasting reggaeton. Secondly get a residency requirement in place for town employees; it’s our money we should pay it to OUR people, not a bunch of suburban leeches.
posted by: The Un-Professor on December 16, 2011 1:18pm
@ William Kurtz Sorry, your argument falls flat if you know anything about the statutory construction principle called preclusion by omission (namely, if the drafters had meant to include non-citizens in the group of persons to whom the voting rights extended, they would have expressly stated it). The mere fact that the drafters of CT Const. Article 6 expressly delineated “citizens” as the group of persons constitutionally enabled to exercise the vote, strongly implies that they did not mean to include “non-citizens” in that category. To assume they intended to do so (and intended to equate “non-citizens” with citizens) would make the delineation of “citizens” meaningless. Notwithstanding your argument, I will stick with the interpretation that Sec’y of State Merrill has given for the statutes she is duly authorized to administer. Objectively speaking, there is no “floor” (or ceiling) in this language. It simply means what it says, and says what it means. If you want to change it, you will need to do so by Constitutional Amendment, not by way of some twisted attempt at statutory construction.
@ The Professor—When people say “play by the rules,” I don’t think we should be taken to mean “follow every single law to the letter.”
Unfortunately, our laws are intended to to represent the norms of conduct that we all agree to be governed by. We are not entitled to pick and choose which ones we wish to obey, and which ones we wish to deny. Disobedience has its consequences, which you must be willing to accept if you willfully disobey the laws your representatives enact. In the instance of immigration laws, failure to meet the requirements for legal status in this country subjects the immigrants to a number of well-defined sanctions—including detention and deportation, as well as being unable to vote in federal elections. (Likewise, illegal immigrants are not allowed to vote in any State’s election where “citizenship” is a prerequisite.)
And I do not accept your de minimis argument that violation of immigration status should be of no consequence because it is in some manner deemed morally justified (by you). Suffer to say that one of the most fundamental acts of sovereignty is the ability to define who is in, and who is out. This is not a power that the only USA seeks to impose on aliens seeking entrance and admission. It is a fundamental exercise for every sovereign nation in existence. And although our immigration policy is far from perfect, it is far more liberal and accommodating of aliens’ interests than any other sovereign entity I am familiar with. In my view, the issue is not viewed as you state it “Are those in the country without authorization from the feds violating a law?” As if we are simply looking the other way at some senseless bureaucratic roadblock hindering the full enjoyment of all rights and privileges of citizenship by oppressed immigrants. Unfortunately, unless granted citizenship, undocumented immigrants are simply NOT CITIZENS. With that designation many precious rights, privileges, and responsibilities flow. But without that designation, they can not lay claim to our most fundamental privilege of the right to VOTE. And it is beyond the power and authority of any Mayor to arbitrarily extend that franchise to them. Immigration policy needs fixing, then fix it. But in the interim, we cannot safely choose to ignore what is the established fact.
posted by: DingDong on December 16, 2011 1:42pm
I don’t get why this is about Johnny saving the world on your dime. If this is all about whose “dime” is at issue, all residents of New Haven pay taxes. No taxation without representation is what the founders believed in. So why shouldn’t all residents get to vote?
posted by: nhteaparty on December 16, 2011 2:08pm
@Dingdong: Only 15,000 people voted in the last mayoral election. If a group can permanantly get the votes of 12,000 people by promising to not enforce the laws that they are violating that completely short circuits the democratic process. All John would have to do to ensure 12,000 extra votes would be to say that ICE is really putting the pressure on and he’s holding them off as best as he can but who knows what the guy running against him will do.
posted by: brutus2011 on December 16, 2011 2:20pm
No taxation without representation is only part of why our founders rebelled against England.
The most fundamental reason was that unwritten English constitutional protections of individual liberties were being changed by Parliament.
Previously, the rule of law was not subject to the interpretations of an individual or group of individuals.
The American Revolution was an attempt by the former British colonists to return to the constitutional protections provided to them BEFORE Parliament decided to abrogate their liberties by legislative fiat. Examples are:
1.) right of trial by jury of their peers was eliminated by admiralty, or military, courts. 2.)the Mass. General Court, or colonial institutions of self-gov’t, was disbanded. 3.)standing armies, or Royal troops, were installed on colonial soil. 4.)taxes on colonial trade
What is important is that our country was founded (1776 onward) on the rule of law. Our first national compact (Articles of Confederation) and the first state constitutions generally favored legislative supremacy along with judicial dependence. The framers concluded that a strict separation of powers, in the US Constitution, would help insure that the rule of law would not be altered by legislative, or arbitrary executive, action however well-meaning. Judicial independence further guaranteed that individual liberties would be as guaranteed as possible.
It is my opinion that the mayor and his administrators have become arbitrary executives and are threatening our free republican institutions. This voting innovation is just the latest example of the tyranny that is emerging here in New Haven.
posted by: Felix Quinones on December 16, 2011 2:23pm
Anyone who does not see through this proposal is looking in the wrong direction.I believe this is not a move for equality and kindness as much as it is a move for garnering more votes for a Democratic party.
As a minority I was always taught, “Vote for Democtats b/c they are for us.” Simply, not true. This is a move to preserve a win for New Haven Dems for the next 20 years.
posted by: JAK on December 16, 2011 2:46pm
Let’s be honest with ourselves. For decades, undocumented residents have been lured here by our government’s policies and practices.
Why? Because it is unquestionable that the national “wink and a nod” have partly fueled economic growth in our country over the long term.
Consequently, it would be disingenuous to suddenly pull the rug out now from people who have been here for decades and raised families here.
For some, the issue is about “principle”. Even though we have skirted our own laws by not cracking down on illegal imigration up until recently, some people want to hold the line on what is lawful. I understand that. But for me, the real issue is a fiscal one.
Before he gets my support on this, Destefano needs to present a financial analysis of the cost to our city of sanctioning and bestowing voting rights on federally undocumented residents. If they are a net positive, the voting idea has merit. If they are a net drag, bad idea.
There must be an advocacy group out there who has run the revenue estimates including payroll taxes, SS, local economic stimulus, AS WELL AS the costs including, cost of schooling, uninsured health services, police services, public works, etc.
If Destefano can’t stand up there and tell me why this is a net fiscal gain for the taxpayers, he shouldn’t support this.
posted by: nhteaparty on December 16, 2011 2:53pm
@Felix: Democrats outnumber Republicans 18 to 1 in New Haven. The only risk to John et al of losing their positions is by independents or other Democratic challengers.
posted by: out of towner on December 16, 2011 3:13pm
Hey NHteaparty and Anon,
There is always this issue with town employees living out of town and taking the town “resources” with us. I would love to live in new haven. However there are some serious issues that need to be addressed.
1) too many shooting and murders 2) #4 most dangerous city in the USA 3) failing schools 4) Illegals the ability to vote 5) Crazy property taxes
Why would we want to live in new haven ? fix the above and people will move back.
posted by: nhteaparty on December 16, 2011 3:13pm
Yeah so I guess the moderator doesn’t like my statement that Democrats outnumber Republicans 18 to 1 in New Haven?
I know the source might seem a little shifty but they’re alright.
So once again…
@Felix. Democrats don’t have any chance of losing New Haven. They outnumber Republicans 18 to 1. Only an independent or Democratic challenger could unseat JD.
posted by: LOL on December 16, 2011 8:14pm
IMO, deStefano is merely trying to secure votes for the next election; he no doubt was scared by how close Kerekes came to beating him last month
posted by: Stan Muzyk on December 16, 2011 8:39pm
Perhaps, Mayor DeStefano should consider returning to his demanding, mayoral agenda.
posted by: observor1 on December 19, 2011 9:05am
So now Johny boy is trying to throw his weight around to further assert his power over the LEGAL citizens and taxpayers. New Haven now appears from newscasts elsewhere to be the laughing stock of the country. It was nice to see the partial results of a media poll that show,as of this morning,that ALL of our state elected officials oppose this idea. I also paid attention to the blog that reminded us that there may be a violation of our laws for helping to harbor illegals.Doesnt this apply to our mayor?
posted by: Myra on December 20, 2011 11:18am
I watched, last night, as the Mayor attempted to address and explain his reasoning for his wanting illegals to vote. I also, heard him say, if I’m not mistaking, that the crimes in this City are not being done by these type of people. To me, it seems as though he wants their votes for his own purposes. They are not citizens, they are illegals and should be treated as such. There is no other explanation needed. Wrong is wrong and right is right.
posted by: westville man on December 20, 2011 1:17pm
I saw that interview too. Destefano claims that much of New Haven is a “transient” community. So he wants to add more transients to the voter rolls? Why? So they can vote and then leave? Even he cant make sense of it.