By Jordan Fenster, Staff Reporter

In May, Justin Bernier sent out a mailing to supporters claiming 5th District Congress Republican primary foe Andrew Roraback had supported “voting rights for illegal aliens.”

That statement is false.

In fact, Roraback, a state senator from Goshen, has spoken out against a plan floated by New Haven Mayor John DeStefano to allow undocumented immigrants the right to votein municipal elections.

Justin Bernier, center, tells Register Citizen Group Editor Matt DeRienzo that his question about nursing home Medicaid reimbursements sounded like it was actually written for Lisa Wilson-Foley, but asked to him. Listening, from left to right, are Andrew Roraback, Wilson-Foley and Mark Greenberg at a 5th District Congress debate at Brookfield High School Monday night. Mara Lavitt/New Haven Register

As Roraback told CBS News, “No right is more cherished and more valued than the right to vote, and for us even contemplating extending that right to people who have come to this country unlawfully, is un-American, unpatriotic and unacceptable.”

The root of the claim, according to Bernier, is Roraback’s sponsorship of legislation that would have allowed “resident aliens” who own property and live in the U.S. legally the right to vote on town budgets and local referendums.

At a 5th District Republican debate Monday in Brookfield, Roraback called Bernier out for that mailing, saying it was “a lie.”

“Justin, you should be ashamed of yourself. You cheapen this process, you cheapen all of us when you resort to outright fabrication,” Roraback told Bernier.

On Wednesday, Bernier said it was extremely inappropriate for Roraback to “call him a liar” in Monday night’s debate over “some wording in a fundraising letter.”

He said that Roraback was trying to draw attention away from questions that Bernier has been raising about Roraback’s voting record.

Bernier says Roraback is not the fiscal conservative he claims to be. He feels the media is “ignoring” the differences he’s pointed out between his “complete opposition” to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, for example, and what he characterizes as Roraback’s support for aspects of it.

On Tuesday, Bernier sent an email to supporters repeating the immigrant voting claim, with a key distinction. It criticized Roraback’s support for a “bill to let non-citizens vote in local elections.”

That statement is true, the difference being that between “non-citizens” and “illegal immigrants.”

According to Av Harris, a spokesman for the Secretary of the State’s office, property owners may cast votes in town elections that involve money or funding, even if those property owners do not live in the town, or in Connecticut. If a property owner is not a U.S. citizen, however, they cannot cast a vote in any election or referendum.

State law specifies that “any citizen of the United States of the age of 18 years or more who …  is liable to the town, district or subdivision for taxes assessed against him on an assessment of not less than $1,000 on the last-completed grand list of such town” may vote on budget referenda in that town.

Three times Roraback proposed bills to change that, allowing resident aliens, legally residing in the United States, who own property, the right to vote in municipal elections.

The first time Roraback proposed such a bill, in 2003, one speaker at a public hearing on the issue said she wanted to “thank Senator Roraback” for the measure’s introduction: “I think the people that — you know — the patriots when they started this country said taxation without representation wasn’t such a good idea, so I think that speaks to that.”

Roraback proposed similar bills in 2005 and again in 2011, no proposal making it to the General Assembly for approval.

Also in 2011, a bill was proposed that would have allowed undocumented immigrants the chance to pay in-state tuition at public colleges. It passed, though Roraback voted against the measure, saying on the floor of the Senate that while he’s in favor of giving undocumented immigrants a path to legal status, he was in opposition to the proposal at hand.

“Our country is about the rule of law and if we believe that it’s the right thing for these youngsters to have in-state tuition at the University of Connecticut, I think we ought to believe it’s the right thing for them to have the right to vote, it’s the right thing for them to have the right to hold office, it’s the right thing for them lawfully to possess a driver’s license,” he said.

Bernier and Roraback will have another chance to fight it out on these issues in person when the four Republicans running for 5th District Congress meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at the town hall in Newtown for their final debate before the Aug. 14 primary. Lisa Wilson-Foley and Mark Greenberg are the other candidates in the race.

Bernier May Mailing