City of Burlington Sued For Allegedly Allowing Non-Citizens to Vote

In March 2023, the city of Burlington passed a charter amendment allowing foreign nationals with legal status to cast ballots in all municipal elections. Foreign nationals who wished to vote under the amendment had to meet specific requirements set forth by state law, including being at least eighteen years old, having taken the Voter’s Oath, being a resident of Burlington, and being legally registered to vote.

The city of Burlington, Vermont, is now facing legal action from Restoring Integrity and Trust in Elections (RITE) for allowing illegal aliens to vote. According to the lawsuit, the city allegedly disregarded the “voter’s qualifications” guaranteed by the Vermont State Constitution. 

Karen Rowell and Michele Morin are the plaintiffs in the suit. They object to the municipal amendment’s clause regarding school board elections. They object that the school board may be the concern of residents; it’s the state that funds the school district. So this provision is unconstitutional under the Vermont Constitution, which stipulates that voting on “any matter that concerns the State of Vermont” needs U.S. citizenship.

The plaintiffs request that the state court make an order prohibiting the city from registering noncitizens and granting them the right to vote in elections and referendums pertaining to education.

The State Education Fund, established by the Board of School Commissioners, provides tax revenue to the city for the yearly education budget. Since noncitizens are now allowed to vote in school commissioner elections, they can influence financial decisions that impact all Vermont taxpayers. RITE said that this is against the Vermont Constitution.

The city of Montpelier enacted a similar law enabling noncitizens to cast ballots in some local elections in November 2018. After two years, a law allowing noncitizens to cast ballots in all municipal elections was enacted by the city of Winooski. The Vermont General Assembly approved the Montpelier and Winooski amendments in May 2021, but Republican Governor Phil Scott rejected them later in June. Later that month, the General Assembly overrode the vetoes and approved the revisions.

If the plaintiffs prevail in this lawsuit, all noncitizens in Burlington will be prohibited from voting on important education-related topics. 

If they win, Republicans may also take action to challenge D.C. legislation and local election regulations in Maryland, California, and Washington, D.C.