Connecticut GOP Blasts Non-Citizen Voting Proposal as 'Publicity Stunt'

The chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party is dismayed by a mayor's plan to ask state legislators to allow illegal immigrants who live in New Haven to vote in municipal elections, characterizing the proposal as a "publicity stunt."

Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola told that while the organization believes in "inclusiveness," citizenship has long been a standard requirement for voting rights.

"In fact, the right to vote in free elections is still an issue that people in many other countries continue to fight and die for," Labriola said. "We support legal immigration and reasonable measures to provide a path to citizenship, but we don't support providing rewards for illegal immigration."

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, a Democrat, said on Tuesday that illegal immigrants pay taxes indirectly through rent and send their children to local schools -- and therefore should be able to vote. The proposal would also lead to a more engaged community, he said.

Under the plan, immigrants who are in the U.S. legally or illegally, and may not vote now, would still be unable to vote in state or federal elections.

Elizabeth Benton, a spokeswoman for DeStefano, said the proposal is "nothing new," nothing more than two dozen states that have seen similar legislation.

"We're not seeking to apply this to any other city, this is about New Haven and what we think makes sense for New Haven," Benton told "New Haven prides itself on being a diverse, welcoming community and part of what makes New Haven such a interesting place to live is our international residents."

Benton said the proposal will be delivered to the state Legislature early next year.

"We want every adult in our community … to be able to vote in local elections that affect their families and futures," she said. "This is not an immigration issue so much as it a New Haven resident issue around participation in our community."

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, meanwhile, said on Wednesday he was not "particularly comfortable" with the idea.

"I think there are obligations that run with citizenship and there are privileges that run with citizenship," Malloy said.

Malloy, also a Democrat, said he was willing to "hear the mayor out" on his proposal, which follows the lead of other cities.

Labriola, however, was not as open-minded.

"Mayor DeStefano presides over a city in decline and one that already has a dubious record of voting integrity," he said. "The citizens of New Haven would be better served by a mayor who focused on jobs and economic development rather than a publicity stunt."

New Haven made national headlines in 2007 when the city approved a program providing municipal identification cards for all residents -- including illegal immigrants -- to provide services such as banking and using the library.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.