Lawsuits challenge non-citizen voting in two Vermont cities

Earlier this year, the Vermont legislature overrode the governor’s veto and enacted statutes authorizing the cities of Montpelier and Winooski to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. (For more background, see National Review.)

The Republican National Committee is now leading a pair of lawsuits challenging the laws. The complaints in Ferry v. Montpelier and Weston v. Winooski identify Section 42 of the Vermont Constitution, which provides, in part, “Every person of the full age of eighteen years who is a citizen of the United States, having resided in this State for the period established by the General Assembly and who is of a quiet and peaceable behavior, and will take the following oath or affirmation, shall be entitled to all the privileges of a voter of this state . . . .”

Professor Peter Teachout at Vermont Law School has argued this provision does not extend to elections in municipalities. The complaints offer a different construction of state law, distinguishing the constitutional right to vote and the “local” elections that ran with property owners in the 19th century (which might have included non-citizens), a distinction that no longer exists in the contemporary era.

Non-citizen voting at the local level has been percolating in recent years, so these lawsuits are ones to watch.

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