Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.
Earlier this week, Vermont made headlines for the Vermont Senate passing legislation that would allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in Montpelier city elections.
Civic engagement and voter participation is good — but it should be preceded by citizenship. The Senate’s decision sets up a slippery slope — should non-citizens be allowed to vote for state legislative positions? For governor? For Congress? For president?
Who will draw these increasingly arbitrary lines?
Instead, we should take the advice of Senator Brian Collamore (R-Rutland), who noted “The Montpelier bill allows what is defined as a legal resident of the United States to be able to vote in city elections. … If someone is here on a permanent basis, why would he or she not want to participate in the process to become a citizen?”
Senator Collamore is exactly right. Instead of adding more non-citizen voters, the Legislature should be exploring better ways to improve outreach towards non-citizens living in Vermont and help them become citizens.
Instead of keeping them in the shadows and re-writing the definition of who gets the vote, we should be helping these folks enjoy the full rights and privileges enjoyed by all Americans by taking steps towards citizenship.
Once again, the Legislature should get its priorities straight. At a time when confidence in our government and electoral processes are at all-time lows, let’s not blur the lines even further. Instead, let’s find better ways to engage with non-citizen residents and help them achieve the American dream.