RNC Sues Vermont City Over Noncitizen Voting

The Republican National Committee (RNC) and Vermont Republican Party have filed a lawsuit against the city of Winooski, Vermont, over its decision to allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections and education budget referendums.

The lawsuit follows a Vermont Supreme Court ruling that allowed noncitizen residents to vote in municipal elections but required U.S. citizenship for votes with statewide implications. The RNC’s current lawsuit argues that allowing noncitizens to vote in Winooski’s school board elections and education budget is unconstitutional as it affects Vermont taxpayers. In addition, the RNC previously won a lawsuit against a New York City law that would have allowed 800,000 noncitizen residents to vote in the city’s elections.

The lawsuit argues that only U.S. citizens can vote on “any matter that concerns the State of Vermont” under Section 42 of the state’s constitution. The action seeks a court order excluding noncitizens from school board elections because the board members create budgets that are then paid for using state funds. Two Winooski residents are also a part of the lawsuit to convey jurisdiction to the court through legal “standing,” or the right to sue because of an actual injury.

However, Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott says that the city’s charter will stand up to additional legal tests, adding that non-citizen residents should be able to vote on school district issues. For two years, Winooski has allowed noncitizens to vote in city government and school district elections. A similar measure is in effect in Montpelier but applies only to city government elections.

According to data shared by Winooski’s communications director, 16 noncitizens voted on Town Meeting Day in Winooski this year, just under 2% of all ballots cast. The number of noncitizen voters was higher last year but still well below the estimated 600 noncitizens who can vote.

Winooski is believed to be Vermont’s most racially and culturally diverse city and home to many refugees. According to U.S. Census data, about 20% of its roughly 8,000 residents speak a language other than English at home.

Burlington, Vermont, recently passed a charter change that would allow noncitizens in the city to vote in local government and school elections. However, it still requires approval from the legislature and Gov. Phil Scott (R), who vetoed Winooski and Montpelier’s measures.

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