Vermont City Council Passes Measure to Allow Non-Citizens Voting Rights

Burlington, Vermont lawmakers voted 10-2 Monday to allow a change to the city's charter that will allow non-citizens to vote in the city's elections, according to WHDH and WCAX-TV.

Councilman Adam Roof, who wrote the resolution in the aim of creating a more inclusive and engaged community, argued that since local government impacts every citizen, then every citizen within the community should have voting rights. He argued that this was in step with Burlington's values, and pointed out that it was in line with the already-approved Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan.

"The main goal of the city's Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan from 2014 is to create a more inclusive and engaged community, which is critical because we know that broad participation in the democratic process strengthens the entirety of the community," said Roof to WCAX-TV.

"The right to vote is more important now than ever before. All residents have the right, in my eyes, to participate in the local democratic process, and the highest level of participation in that process is being able to cast your vote. To that end, I am pushing to expand voting rights in Burlington to all residents of the city in order to lower the barrier to participation and build a more inclusive community. The city is in a position to look at this issue again and hopefully have a different outcome on the ballot in March."

One citizen spoke out against the measure at the vote, saying the council was "pandering" politically to their voting bases. "We have 40,000-plus registered voters. How many of those are nonresident college students who vote on our property taxes, our legislators, our city leadership, which includes all of you, and much more, and then move away?"

Stickers
A sheet of voting stickers at a local California election in 2017. Burlington, Vermont's City Council has passed a proposal that will allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, but it has several more hurdles to jump before becoming city law. David McNew/Getty

Council President Kurt Wright, a Republican, stated that he voted against the measure, and that he believes only American citizens deserve voting rights within the community.

"I think that's important. I would not expect to move to another country and not become a citizen and expect to be voting in their elections," said Wright. "We voted on this just a few years ago and the citizens of Burlington voted significantly against it so I'm not supportive of this proposal."

The measure must be fully ratified by the Charter Change Committee, then by the city Legislature.

A similar measure was passed by neighboring town Montpelier, though Governor Phil Scott has not signed it into law, admitting he's on the fence about it and fears it might violate state laws.

Vermont City Council Passes Measure to Allow Non-Citizens Voting Rights | U.S.