BERNIE SANDERS’ HOMETOWN PASSES PROPOSAL
TO LET NON-CITIZENS VOTE
BY LUIS MIGUEL
republished below in full unedited for informational, educational and research purposes:
In a 10-2 vote this week, members of the Burlington, Vermont, City Council passed a resolution that would allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.
Councilor Adam Roof, the resolution’s sponsor, argued that every resident should have the opportunity to vote because all are affected by local government decisions.
Roof wrote in a statement:
The right to vote is more important now than ever before. All residents have the right, in my eyes, to participate in the local democratic process, and the highest level of participation in that process is being able to cast your vote. To that end, I am pushing to expand voting rights in Burlington to all residents of the city in order to lower the barrier to participation and build a more inclusive community. The city is in a position to look at this issue again and hopefully have a different outcome on the ballot in March.
Roof also said his proposal supports the city’s Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan, which the council unanimously adopted in 2014.
“The main goal of the city’s Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan from 2014 is to create a more inclusive and engaged community, which is critical because we know that broad participation in the democratic process strengthens the entirety of the community,” Roof added.
The 82-page plan includes 31 recommendations and 49 action steps with the aim of eliminating “race-based disparities” across all city departments and in the Burlington community.
One of the two councilors to vote against the resolution was Council President Kurt Wright, who said he believes the right to vote should exclusively belong to American citizens.
“I think that’s important. I would not expect to move to another country and not become a citizen and expect to be voting in their elections,” said Wright. “We voted on this just a few years ago and the citizens of Burlington voted significantly against it so I’m not supportive of this proposal.”
Only one person spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting. The man disapproved of the resolution and accused city councilors of pandering. He also noted that the measure could have the consequence of giving Burlington’s nonresident student population undue influence in local decisions.
“We have 40,000-plus registered voters. How many of those are nonresident college students who vote on our property taxes, our legislators, our city leadership, which includes all of you, and much more, and then move away?” the man asked.
The resolution now heads to the Charter Change Committee, where it could be added as an amendment to the city’s charter. However, it will require approval from the state legislature, where its chances of being green-lighted are uncertain.
Voters in Montepelier passed a similar measure that was approved by the state House of Representatives but ultimately stalled in the Senate. Vermont’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, has said he is not convinced by the idea of letting non-citizens vote, suggesting that such measures might violate a state law that prevents any database of non-citizens.
Burlington is the hometown of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), who served as the city’s mayor from 1981 to 1989.
U.S. law has prohibited non-citizens from voting in federal elections since the passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
Non-citizens who knowingly cast ballots in federal elections are subject to fines, imprisonment, and even deportation, though the law exempts from punishment any non-citizen who “reasonably believed at the time of voting” that he or she was a citizen.
Federal law leaves the matter of letting non-citizens vote in state and local elections up to the states. No states have allowed non-citizens to vote in state elections since Arkansas became the last to ban non-citizen voting in 1926.
Some local governments, however, do have authority to extend the franchise to non-citizens if they wish to. Eleven local governments, 10 of them in Maryland, presently permit non-citizens to vote in their elections. San Francisco lets non-citizens vote in school board elections.
The Constitution reserves to the states considerable discretion in deciding who gets to vote. Article 1, Section 2 only says that “Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.”
If federal prohibitions against non-citizen voting in federal elections were repealed, then, it’s possible that advocates of opening elections up to foreign nationals could begin with letting non-citizens vote for state representatives and then justify letting them vote for federal office under Article 1, Section 2.
Whatever the tactic they undertake, the movement to extend voting rights to non-citizens is clearly gaining increasing traction on the Left. And here we thought they were against foreign interference in American elections.