Non-Citizen Voting Pushed in Burlington, Vermont
By David Jaroslav | FAIR Take | October 2019
The city council of the most populous city in one of the most left-wing states in the union wants to allow non-citizens to vote in its elections, and recently took a first step in that direction.
On October 7, by a vote of 10-2, the city council of Burlington, Vermont, passed a resolution calling for a change to the city’s charter that would “expand the right to vote in all Burlington general and special municipal elections to all residents of Burlington, regardless of citizenship status[.]”
The resolution calls for the council’s Charter Change Committee to report a proposed charter change back to the full council on or before its November 18 meeting. If the council then approves the change, it would be before the city’s voters on the March 2020 “Town Meeting” ballot. The voters previously rejected a similar charter change by 58 to 42 percent in 2015. .
The resolution’s sponsor, Councilor Adam Roof (I-Ward 8) believes that allowing illegal aliens to vote would “build a more inclusive community” and that “[a]ll residents have the right… to participate in the local democratic process, and the highest level of participation in that process is being able to cast your vote.”
Even in Burlington, this idea was immediately met with opposition. Council President Kurt Wright(R-Ward 4), stated he “voting is a privilege reserved for American citizens” and that he “would not expect to move to another country and not become a citizen and expect to be voting in their elections[.]”
Councilor Ali Dieng (D-Ward 7), himself a legal immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen from Mauritania, was the other vote against the resolution. “I think it is important to understand that voting is sacred to me. It is sacred because you have a voice. You [are] part of this community. And I think we are talking about giving a person when you become a citizen this is your right. You take a pledge. You want to become a citizen of this country. You can die for this country. I became a citizen.”
Likewise describing it as a bad idea, Dieng’s constituent, Ward 7 resident Jeff Comstock, the only member of the public to speak on the resolution at the council meeting, said, “The resolution states that approximately 3,200 Burlington residents are ineligible to vote because they are refugees not yet eligible for U.S. citizenship. Not yet eligible really has nothing to do with it. They simply are not U.S. citizens. There is a path to citizenship for a reason and the right to vote is one of the most valuable prizes.”
Even if Burlington’s voters approve the charter change, it would still need the state legislature’s and governor’s approval. A similar bill authorizing non-citizen voting in the state capital Montpelier passed the House last year but stalled in the Senate.
Governor Phil Scott (R) has expressed disapproval, likening the proposal to allowing businesses to vote since they too are impacted by government decisions. If he vetoed a bill approving the charter change, it is unclear whether both chambers could muster the 2/3 vote needed for an override.