Scott vetoes Burlington noncitizen voting charter change; lawmakers vow to override

Governor Phil Scott vetoed a Burlington charter change that would allow legal residents who are not U.S. citizens to vote in local elections.
Published: May. 31, 2023 at 12:02 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Governor Phil Scott Tuesday vetoed a Burlington charter change that would have allowed legal residents who are not U.S. citizens to vote in local elections.

“It really is an insult to democracy,” said Burlington City Councilor Gene Bergman, P-Ward 2, a strong supporter of the change.

House Speaker Jill Kowinski, D-Burlington, said it’s likely the House will overturn Scott’s veto. “The people who are going through this are our neighbors,” Krowinski said. “They’re very active in our community. It makes sense to give them an opportunity to have a voice.”

“I don’t think we should delay, therefore, allowing this veto to stand,” said State Rep. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, D-Burlington. “In a city like Burlington, because there’s 5% or so of the population this would benefit.”

In his explanation for the veto, Governor Scott said, in part, “The fundamentals of voting should be universal and implemented statewide. I again urge the legislature to establish clarity and consistency on this matter with a template or uniform standards, before continuing to allow municipalities to move forward with changes to resident voter eligibility in their cities and towns.”

Scott has also vetoed noncitizen voting in Montpelier and Winooski, which the House overturned. The Vermont Supreme Court earlier this year ruled municipalities have the right to allow legal residents to vote in local elections.

“Every community tailors the language a certain way to reflect their needs, so at this time, I don’t see a statewide plan for this in place,” Krowinsi said.

“If local voters decide to support an issue, and support it as a charter change, our job is to vet it for any illegal matters,” Mulvaney-Stanak said. “This is a straightforward matter and we should support the will of the voters.” Mulvaney-Stanak also pointed out certain areas of the state have greater populations of noncitizens, so getting the whole legislature on board may seem difficult.

Bergman says Scott’s decision was disappointing and goes against his message of a strong democracy. “It’s about the people whose kids are going to school, whose taxes through their rents or through their homes to pay for municipal services, for the right to engage in democracy.”

Governor Scott did approve three other Burlington charter changes regarding elections including new districts, the use of ranked-choice voting in certain races, and moving certain poll locations for accessibility.

Lawmakers will be back in Montpelier June 20th, where they’ll discuss the noncitizen voting item as well as the budget vetoed by Governor Scott.

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Vt. House approves Burlington charter changes on noncitizen voting and ranked choice voting

Vt. Supreme Court upholds Montpelier noncitizen voting

VT Supreme Court rules on Montpelier non-citizen voting decision

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

Republicans sue over noncitizen voting in Winooski; city wants suit dismissed