Noncitizens Can Vote in Local Elections in 2 Vermont Cities After Legislature Overturns Governor’s Vetoes

Noncitizens Can Vote in Local Elections in 2 Vermont Cities After Legislature Overturns Governor’s Vetoes
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott poses at the Tunbridge World's Fair in Tunbridge, Vt., on Sept. 14, 2018. (Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Noncitizen legal residents will be able to vote in two cities in Vermont after the state Senate narrowly overrode Gov. Phil Scott’s vetoes of two bills earlier this month.

The Republican governor earlier this month vetoed two bills, H.177 and H.227, which are charter changes to allow noncitizen residents in Montpelier and Winooski to vote in local elections. He cited concerns that the measures would “create inconsistency in election policy” in municipalities across Vermont, and inadvertently create “separate and unequal classes of residents potentially eligible to vote on local issues.”

In his veto letters dated June 1, Scott asked the state legislature to “revisit the issue of noncitizen voting in a more comprehensive manner,” by creating a policy that could apply to the entire state, or by creating “a uniform template and process” for locales that want to give noncitizen legal residents the right to vote in local elections.

The Vermont legislature voted largely along party lines to overturn Scott’s vetoes on the two bills, with the House vote at 103-47 on Wednesday and the Senate vote at 20-10 on Thursday. Democrats in both chambers were able to meet the two-thirds majority of members present threshold that’s required to overturn the governor’s vetoes.

Noncitizens who are legal residents of Montpelier and Winooski can now vote in municipal elections. In particular, H.177 will allow noncitizen legal residents to vote in city government elections in Montpelier, while H.227 will allow noncitizen legal residents to vote in both city government and school district elections.

“Voters in Montpelier and Winooski came out in favor of legal resident noncitizen voting, and the legislature, after rigorous debate and deliberation, supported their ability to regulate their own local elections in this way,” Vermont Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint said in a statement Thursday. “Today, the Senate affirmed that decision, overriding the Governor’s vetoes on H.227 and H.177.”

Vermont House Speaker Jill Krowinski said in a written statement on Wednesday, “We have a rich history of Vermonters coming together in their cities, towns, and villages to work together and chart a path forward that works best for their communities.

“These charters expand local voting rights to residents of these respective communities, and these decisions were made by the voters after robust discussion and deliberation.”