DeStefano’s Folly

There were so many big stories going around the state last week that it’s difficult to choose one to sound off on. But New Haven Mayor John DeStefano’s proposal to allow non-citizens (including illegals) to vote in municipal elections got a lot of attention — and justifiably so.

The first time I saw the plan, it struck me as such a bad idea that it’s hard to know where to begin to attack it. I understand that proponents feel that hard working immigrants deserve a say in how their local government functions, though I disagree with the notion that, in the absence of voting rights, they’re victims of taxation without representation.

But one of the most sacred privileges of citizenship is the right to vote. If that right is granted to non-citizens, then what incentive do they have to pursue citizenship? Moreover, if undocumented workers are allowed to vote, we are conferring that right to people who break the law and who have, in the case of second-time offenders, committed a felony.

I wouldn’t go so far as Chris Powell did. The tart-tongued managing editor of the Journal-Inquirer argued in a column published yesterday that DeStefano’s plan is tantamount to “national suicide.”  I do, however, share his view that DeStefano’s initiative is politically motivated. After all, no serious person thinks the mayor would be touting this proposal if he thought all those Elm City immigrants were likely to vote for his Republican opponent — if indeed he has ever had one in Democrat-dominated New Haven.

But what struck me was how quickly prominent Democrats in the state began running away from the voter proposal. You would expect Republican State Sen. Andrew Roraback, who is also a candidate for the 5th-district congressional seat, to react swiftly. But Rep. Rosa DeLauro (who represents the Elm City in Washington) and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy were lukewarm at best:

“It’s not an idea that I’m particularly comfortable with,” said Malloy, a Democrat. “I think there are obligations that run with citizenship and there are privileges that run with citizenship.”

Not exactly a sharp rebuke to the mayor. Though it should come as no surprise that Democrats who represent wider constituencies than DeStefano would be cool to his proposal.

P.S. Speaking of representing wider constituencies, my guess is DeStefano, Malloy’s principal Democratic opponent in the 2006 governor’s race, has given up on his dream of running the state. For this idea would surely be poison in a statewide campaign.

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