Vt. legislators look to override noncitizen voting veto
WINOOSKI, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont legislators are preparing a veto override after Governor Phil Scott this week struck down a proposed charter change that would have given noncitizens the right to vote in Winooski and Montpelier.
Lawmakers in those cities believe they owe it to their constituents to fight for it since they overwhelmingly supported the measure when it went before the voters.
The bill seeks to let new Americans who have established residency in Montpelier and Winooski -- but haven’t acquired U.S. citizenship yet -- to participate in local elections. In Winooski, the measure also looks to allow noncitizen participation in school elections.
Chittenden County Senator Kesha Ram says 42% of families in Winooski schools identify as new Americans or English learners. “So, one could guess that you have a huge portion of parents there who have very little say in the direction of their children’s education because they cannot vote for their school board members,” Ram said. Ram says the measure overwhelmingly passed in Winooski by 70%.
Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson says 66% of voters approved it. “This is what our community would like, so one of the arguments for it as well is, it’s an issue of local control,” Watson said. “We would like to be able to include noncitizens in our voting process so we should be able to decide that.”
In his veto memos for H.177 and H. 227, the governor said he wants legislators to develop “a statewide policy or a uniform template and process for those municipalities wishing to grant the right of voting in local elections to all legal residents.”
Ram believes enfranchising more Vermonters will benefit the state as a whole. “Once you can vote, you can have a voice, you can shape policy, you can change the agenda,” Ram said. “You feel more ownership in your community over really important decisions and that makes you more likely to want to stay in that community and make it better.”
The veto override session is scheduled for June 23 and 24. Both the House and the Senate need a two-thirds vote to override.
Ram says she and her colleagues are willing to work with the governor to come up with something that satisfies his concerns.
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