IMMIGRANT VOTING RIGHTS IN VERMONT
Burlington, Vermont is home to 3,140 foreign born residents (US Census 2000), corresponding to 8.1% of the total number of residents. More than half of them are not naturalized citizens (1,914). Fourteen percent of students in Burlington’s School district speak English as a second language.
In Chittenden county the number of foreign-born residents is 8,669 (5.9% of the total population, Census 2000). More than half of them are not naturalized citizens (4,730).
VIVA, Vermont Immigrant Voting Alliance
VIVA is a non-partisan coalition whose mission is to encourage active participation of non-citizens in local government through education and advocacy.
VIVA is working on restoring immigrant voting rights in Burlington’s local elections (Mayor, City Council, School Board). Vermont has a long history of non-citizen voting. Until 1977 foreign residents were allowed to vote in Vermont’s local elections.
To educate immigrants and raise public awareness, VIVA held a demonstration election at Edmunds High School in Burlington on Marc 6, 2007. Click HERE for photos. Click HERE for a demonstration ballot.
To restore voting rights, the charter of the city of Burlington would need to be amended. This can be accomplished via ballot followed by the final approval of the state legislators if ballot is successful.
Burlington and Vermont have set high examples in the past, for example by abolishing slavery early. We believe the next conversation on how to make democracy stronger, participatory and legitimate should be about legal immigrants and local elections.
As a response to individuals challenging local noncitizen voting, a document of the Vermont Supreme Court in 1828 read:
“It has been the policy of our government to encourage emigration from abroad, and, at as early a period as may be, to extend to such emigrants all the rights of citizenship, that their feelings and interests may become identified with the government and the country. While awaiting the time when they are to become entitled to the full rights of citizenship, it seems to us a wise policy in the Legislature to allow them to participate in the affairs of these minor municipal corporations, as in some degree a preparatory fitting and training for the exercise of the more important and extensive rights and duties of citizens.”
By Mariana Lamaison Sears. "Is it Taxation without representation?" Monday, 05 March 2007 Burlington Free Press