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  • Writer's picturejohn kepler

Giuliani admits using ‘dirty trick’ to suppress Hispanic vote in mayoral race

“A dirty trick in New York City? I’m so shocked,” Bannon sarcastically responded.


Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has admitted to a “dirty trick” that his campaign used to suppress the Hispanic vote during the city’s 1993 mayoral race.

On Tuesday, Giuliani revealed his voter suppression tactics to the far-right Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon and Arizona’s defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake during a discussion on his America’s Mayor Live program.

In the conversation, Giuliani – who was central to Trump’s efforts to subvert the result of the 2020 presidential election – lamented that he had been “cheated” during the 1989 mayoral race in which he lost before explaining his 1993 campaign strategy, saying: “I’ll tell you one little dirty trick,” to which Lake replied: “We need dirty tricks!”

“A dirty trick in New York City? I’m so shocked,” Bannon sarcastically responded. Giuliani then interrupted the former Trump adviser, saying: “No, played by Republicans!”

“Republicans don’t do dirty tricks,” Bannon said before Giuliani enthusiastically said: “How about this one?” Bannon replied: “Okay give it to me.”

Giuliani explained that he spent $2m to set up a so-called Voter Integrity Committee which was headed by Randy Levine, current president of the New York Yankees baseball team, and John Sweeney, a former New York Republican congressman.

“So they went through East Harlem, which is all Hispanic, and they gave out little cards, and the card said: ‘If you come to vote, make sure you have your green card because INS are picking up illegals.’ So they spread it all over the Hispanic …” said Giuliani, referring to the now defunct US Immigration and Naturalization Service before trailing off.

“Oh my gosh,” Lake replied as she raised her eyebrows.

Following its closure in 2003, the INS transferred its immigration enforcement functions to other agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, including US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Giuliani went on to reveal that following the election, which he won against then incumbent mayor David Dinkins by around 53,000 votes, then president Bill Clinton’s justice department launched an investigation into him.

“[Then-attorney general] Janet Reno is coming after us, we violated civil rights,” Giuliani recalled his lawyer Dennison Young telling him. Giuliani then reassured Young, saying: “What civil rights did we violate? They don’t have civil rights! All we did was prevent people who can’t vote from voting. Maybe we tricked them, but tricking is not a crime.”

“In those days, we didn’t have crazy prosecutors. Nowadays, they’ll probably prosecute you for it … and that’s the way we kept down the Hispanic vote,” Giuliani said.

“Not the legal vote, the illegal vote,” Lake interjected.

“Of course! The Hispanic illegal vote, which takes away the Hispanic legal vote,” Giuliani responded.

The Huffington Post compiled a handful of media reports from the time which collectively point towards Giuliani’s voter suppression tactics during the election.

A 1993 New York Times article published at the time of the election reported that Dinkins had called for a news conference to “accuse the Giuliani camp of waging ‘an outrageous campaign of voter intimidation and dirty tricks’”.

One of the charges included English and Spanish pro-Dinkins posters that were allegedly put up at the time in Washington Heights and the Bronx, predominantly Hispanic and Black areas. “The posters suggested that illegal immigrants would be arrested at the polls and deported if they tried to vote,” the New York Times reported.

An article published in the socialist journal Against the Current months after the election also mentioned the posters.

“Cops put up phony Dinkins posters in mostly Dominican Washington Heights, saying the INS would be checking voters’ documents at the polls. In some cases police themselves asked Latino voters for their passports,” wrote labor and social activist Andy Pollack.

Similarly, a Washington Post report published days after the election cited complaints surrounding voter suppression in the city.

“Among the complaints are the placing of signs on telephone poles and walls in Latino areas warning that ‘federal authorities and immigration officials will be at all election sites … Immigration officials will be at locations to arrest and deport undocumented illegal voters,’” the Post reported.

A statement issued by the then justice department on 2 November 1993 said: “The Department of Justice is aware that posters have been placed throughout New York City misinforming voters about the role of federal officials in today’s elections … Federal observers are in New York to protect the rights of minority voters. They are not there to enforce immigration laws.”

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Sweeney dismissed Giuliani’s claims as “nonsense” and said that he ran a “legitimate” operation alongside Levine. Levine echoed similar sentiments to the outlet, explaining that the purpose of the operation was “getting poll watchers and attorneys when there was a dispute”.

He added that he had “no knowledge” of the trick Giuliani described.

Since the 1993 mayoral elections, voter suppression tactics have continued to be carried out in various ways across the city.

In December 2021, the New York City council approved a bill that would have allowed for non-US citizens to vote in local elections. However, the law was struck down months later in June 2022 after state supreme court judge Ralph Porzio of Staten Island ruled the law “unconstitutional”.

The same month Porzio struck down the law, the Democratic New York governor Kathy Hochul signed the John R Lewis Voting Rights Act into law, which seeks to prevent local officials from enacting rules that may suppress voting rights of individuals as a result of their race.

In addition to local governments or school districts with track records of discrimination now being required to obtain state approval before passing certain voting policies, the new law expands language assistance to voters for whom English is not a first language, as well as provides legal tools to fight racist voting provisions.

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