By Guy Page
A former Vermont state senator and supporter of the GOP lawsuit against Montpelier and Winooski’s non-citizen voter charter change says non-citizen voting has undue influence on major statewide decisions, such as the cost of education.
“As a Vermont property taxpayer I am pleased to see the lawsuit proceed as non-citizens voting on a school budget will impact taxpayers in the rest of the state under the statewide education property tax system,” Wendy Wilton, former Rutland County senator and now a Milton resident, told Vermont Daily Chronicle Wednesday.
Local spending decisions are factored into the state’s complicated formula for determining school spending. There’s also the important political aspect. Legislators pay attention to Town Meeting school budget votes in March and May when deciding how much to spend on school funding for the coming year.
When Gov. Phil Scott proposed a $40 million cut in school spending in 2017, he said Town Meeting voters’ ‘no’ votes indicated a desire to cut taxes. The Democratic president of the Senate admitted as much, according to VPR: ‘“I would say that if the overwhelming number of school budgets pass, it suggests that voters do not want Montpelier telling them that they have to cut every budget in the state,’ says Senate President Tim Ashe.”
In these respects, non-citizen voters will have as much influence per capita as citizen voters on crucial statewide decisions such as school funding.
It’s that kind of non-citizen influence on important state policy the Republican plaintiffs are trying to prevent in their September 27 lawsuit filed in Washington Superior Court against the cities of Montpelier and Winooski. Their charter changes allowing non-citizen voting were approved in June by the Legislature.
In May, the town charters were approved by Vermont’s Democrat state Senate. In June, Vermont’s Republican Governor vetoed the legislation. That same month, the legislature overrode the Governor’s veto.
Democratic lawmakers Sen. Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden) and Rep. Taylor Small (P/D-Winooski) yesterday said the GOP lawsuit “marks the continuation of a coordinated, Republican-led attack on voting rights across the country.”
“This change is about giving everyone a meaningful voice on the decisions being made in their own community,” Ram said in a press statement. “Citizenship status should not determine an individual’s ability to have a say in the needs of their kids, their local schools, and the future of their communities where they pay taxes. This lawsuit is yet another attempt to maintain political control and silence the voices of marginalized communities, under the guise of maintaining ‘election integrity.’”
Small highlighted how big of an impact these changes will have on the local community. “The barriers to citizenship can be immense for our community, especially those facing language barriers. What we know is that 10% of legal Winooski residents have not yet attained citizenship for a variety of reasons, but that’s a total of 618 people who have gained a voice through this measure. I believe in the democratic process of one person, one vote in a free and fair election.”
Republicans insist ‘free and fair’ elections can only include U.S. citizens.
“The RNC’s lawsuit is another aggressive step in the ongoing fight to secure the integrity of our elections — in this specific instance, ensuring that American elections be solely decided by American citizens,” a Republican National Committee statement issued yesterday said. “The suit also raises important concerns about how the laws will be implemented and whether non-citizens will end up on the same voter registration lists used for state-level and federal elections.”
Vermont isn’t the only place where Democrats are seeking to extend the franchise to noncitizens:
- In 2021, an Illinois state Senator Celina Villanueva (D) introduced legislation to “allow noncitizens to vote in local school board elections” statewide.
- In June, 2021, D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) re-introduced a bill that would allow non-citizens to vote in local D.C. elections.
- In New York City, “after coming up repeatedly during the Democratic mayoral primary, a bill to enfranchise noncitizens in New York City elections appears to be within close reach.”
- Some extreme left-wing cities such as San Francisco and Takoma Park, Maryland are already permitting non-citizens to vote in local elections.
“Democrats are trying to dismantle the integrity of our elections,” RNC Chief Counsel Justin Riemer said in the NRC statement. “In addition to attacking widely supported safeguards like voter ID, Democrats also want foreign citizens to vote in American elections. Republicans are fighting back on this far-left assault against election integrity — unlike radical Democrats, we believe that our elections should be decided solely by American citizens. This is a matter of principle and we will fight in all 50 states to ensure this remains the case.”