This week lawmakers return to their jobs in a special veto session to resolve whether noncitizens will be able to vote in local elections. They also will decide how to manage personal records for juveniles accused of serious crimes.
One of the two election-related bills, H.227, would allow the city of Winooski to let noncitizens vote in their local elections. Critics of the bill have pointed out that this would mean noncitizens will have an impact on the state-wide education fund.
The Montpelier version of the same effort, H.177, also would allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, including school budgets.
Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the measures, and in order to override the governor, the House and Senate chambers need get two-thirds of members on board. Based on past voting for the Montpelier bill — 103-39 in the House and 21-9 in the Senate — the vote to override will likely be close.
Liberal activists have already taken to social media to alert their supporters and rally for noncitizen voting.
Action Alert: Call or write your legislators & ask them to vote to override @GovPhilScott's veto of Winooski & Montpelier's charter changes advancing ALL resident voting rights. Meaningful action you can take today on #juneteenth Make it more than performative, ACT. #vtpoli https://t.co/cAoLuQVOMm
— Brenda Siegel for Vermont (@BrendaForVT) June 19, 2021
Rutland County Democrats also weighed in on the matter.
.@GovPhilScott has vetoed more legislation than any other governor in #Vermont History.⁰Governor Scott nixed voting rights’ expansion in Montpelier and Winooski via popular charter changes in those cities. #RepublicansAreTheProblem #vtpoli
— Rutland County VT Democrats (@RutlandDemocrat) June 2, 2021
The Center for Immigration Studies has determined that allowing noncitizens to vote is unwise because it lifts too many standards. For instance, they would not have to demonstrate an understanding of English or an understanding of U.S. history and government.
“These requirements are, of course, those that accompany the naturalization process by which legal immigrants become citizens,” the group states. “Abandoning all of them in order to give non-citizens the right to vote puts advocates in the paradoxical position of requiring far less for non-citizen than for citizen voting.”
In a recent commentary, Vermont GOP Chair Deb Billado notes that the Vermont Constitution has clear parameters for legal voting, including that the voter must be “a citizen of the United States, having resided in this State for the period established by the General Assembly,” among other rules.
She reminded Republicans to put the law first.
“As much as Republicans support the concept of local control, we cannot allow local municipalities to violate the constitution,” Billado wrote. “We take our oaths of office seriously.”
She said that there is still a path towards the right to vote.
“But we believe the way they ought to achieve that is by going through the naturalization process the way that every other immigrant who votes today had to do,” she wrote.
The other bill being reconsidered is S.107, which would protect the privacy of the records of young adults accused of serious crimes. Under this bill, law enforcement could only release records for serious violent crimes, but other crimes could remain concealed.
According to the website Nolo.com, which focuses on law and attorneys, “Juvenile criminal records are confidential in most circumstances, but the exceptions are significant.”
The report continues, “Under certain circumstances, juvenile criminal records may even be accessible to the general public. As juvenile crime has increased and become more violent, policy makers have had to balance between competing interests: the interests of the community and juveniles’ privacy.”
Also during this veto session, lawmakers are expected to take up work on a statewide registry for rental homes and apartments so that safety standards can be better enforced. In addition, this bill would provide funds for interest-free grants for landlords to make improvements on their properties.