Montpelier residents agree to let non-US citizens vote

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Montpelier has become the only community in Vermont where residents decided to allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in city elections. Our Dom Amato got reaction from residents.

"The question when you get right down to it is, can you be a citizen of your community without being a citizen of the country?" Montpelier City Clerk John Odum said.

It's a question Odum says he gets a few times every election season. Although he believes it won't impact a large group of Montpelier residents.

"We may be talking about it only affecting about a dozen people. Probably a few more than that, but it's not very many," Odum said.

Odum felt it was important enough to put the question before the community-- do they want to allow noncitizen resident to vote in city elections? It passed by a 2-1 margin on a count of 2,857-1,488.

"Maybe there should be like a time minimum," Elyza Litster said.

Litster goes to Montpelier often but lives in Northfield. She believes you should be able to earn your right to vote.

"After you've been here a certain amount of time and contributed enough to where you live, you should be granted the right to vote," Litster said.

Isla Jennings of Montpelier supports the idea and calls it an inclusive approach.

"If you live, if you spend your time in Montpelier and know the city and enjoy it and yeah, spend your time here. I think you should be able to vote and have your opinion matter," Jennings said.

This doesn't apply to all elections. Non-U.S. citizens would only be able to vote on city issues in Montpelier.

"They're specifically excluded from national, of course, state, of course. And the folks that we share the ballot with, the school is a different entity, so it would not include school votes," Odum said.

Although residents have approved the idea, all changes in city charters must be approved by the Legislature before becoming law. The proposal will land in the House Government Operations Committee in January.

The city of Winooski, one of Vermont's most diverse communities, tried getting a similar non-U.S. citizen voting question on the ballot this year. City councilors said they needed more time to discuss it with the community, possibly starting a committee, before putting the question before voters.