Will 3rd time be the charm for noncitizen voting in Burlington?

Published: Jun. 27, 2022 at 5:25 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington’s City Council is working once again to allow noncitizens to vote.

Twice before, Burlington city councilors pushed for noncitizen voting. In 2015, voters rejected it. In 2020, the council itself voted against putting it on the ballot.

Since then, Winooski and Montpelier voted to allow noncitizens to vote in their cities and the Legislature signed off on both of those measures.

“There are all these decisions that are made on a local level, in fact, this is where we live, we live here, we act here and it’s where most of the important things happen, and I believe people should have a stake in it,” said Gene Bergman, P-Burlington City Council.

Bergman heads the Charter Change Committee which is trying for the third time to craft a noncitizen voting measure.

He says like in Montpelier and Winooski, legal Burlington residents would be allowed to vote, including immigrants and refugees who work, go to school, pay taxes and utilize services in the city.

“People having a say, people knowing that they have a voice, people being able to be involved in a full and meaningful way, and voting is at the core of that,” Bergman said.

Councilor Ali Dieng is an immigrant from West Africa. He opposed noncitizen voting in 2020. He told WCAX News at the time that voting is a special reward for becoming a citizen. He also said then and now that he didn’t want a registry of noncitizen residents created during Trump’s presidency. But he says now that Biden is at the helm, it’s the right time to put this question to the voters.

“Now I am open to the idea, especially when now the city, the Charter Change Committee is working in collaboration with the Vermont New American Advisory Council in order to look into this and make it happen,” said Dieng, I-Burlington City Council.

The charter committee hopes to get the measure on the 2023 Town Meeting Day ballot. If it passes, noncitizens in Burlington would be able to vote in local, municipal and school board elections only. You would still need to be a U.S. citizen to vote in state and federal elections.

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Noncitizen voting proposal returns to Burlington City Council over concerns

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