Lawsuit Seeks to Stop Noncitizens From Voting in Vermont Elections
Lawsuit Seeks to Stop Noncitizens From Voting in Vermont Elections

By Zachary Stieber

A new lawsuit says that noncitizens voting in elections in Burlington, Vermont, violates the state’s Constitution and should be stopped.

Burlington in 2023 started letting people who are not U.S. citizens but are legal residents to register and vote in local elections.

Any noncitizen “who resides on a permanent or indefinite basis in compliance with federal immigration laws” is allowed to vote in the elections under the amendment to Burlington’s charter.

Those elections include votes for school board members, who approve the city’s education budget.

School budgets and funding are statewide issues, and Section 42 of the Vermont Constitution states that Vermont voters must be citizens of the United States, the new suit says.

“Because elections that determine the allocation of state funds necessarily involve statewide, or ‘freeman,’ issues, they are governed by Section 42 and are reserved for Vermont residents who are United States citizens,” the suit states. It says the charter amendment was “in direct contravention to the Vermont Constitution.”

Two voters, Michele Morin and Karen Rowell, brought the challenge in Vermont Superior Court.

The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that noncitizens cannot vote in any elections that determine school board members or education funding in the future.

The Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections group and the Republican National Committee is supporting the suit.

“Americans should decide American elections. Democrats’ persistent efforts to enable noncitizen voting dilute the voices of Americans in Vermont and across the country,” Michael Whatley, the committee’s chairman, said in a statement. “This lawsuit is just the latest development in our ongoing fight to prevent noncitizens from voting in our elections.”

Burlington officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Burlington, with some 45,000 people, is Vermont’s most-populous city.

Several previous suits have been unsuccessfully brought against similar charter amendments in the Vermont cities of Montpelier and Winooski. The Vermont Supreme Court ruled in 2023 that Montpelier’s law does not violate Section 42 “because that constitutional provision does not apply to local elections.”

Justices said, however, that voting in local elections that are “traditionally the province of ‘freemen’ in substance, could not avoid the requirements of [Section] 42.”

“Put another way,” the new suit states, “while the Supreme Court rejected the argument that all municipal elections are now subject to Section 42, it held that specific municipal votes would require United States citizenship if those votes were of statewide concern.”

The new lawsuit challenges elections on education matters because those are statewide concerns, according to the plaintiffs.

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