GOP sues 2 Vermont cities for noncitizen voting

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Republican National Committee is suing two Vermont cities for allowing noncitizens to vote on local issues in their communities.

The similar, but separate lawsuits against the cities of Montpelier and Winooski ask judges to declare noncitizen voting unconstitutional.

“The Vermont Constitution requires U.S. citizenship as a qualification of voting,” said both lawsuits, written by Republican attorney Brady Toensing.

The suits, filed Tuesday in state courts in Burlington and Montpelier, were brought by the national GOP, its Vermont counterpart and a number of individuals.

Last November, voters in Winooski — considered to be one of the most diverse cities in northern New England — authorized noncitizens to vote in local elections if they were in the U.S. legally. In 2019, the city of Montpelier passed a similar measure.

Earlier this year the Vermont Legislature approved changes to the charters of the two communities allowing noncitizen voting. The initial bills were vetoed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott, but both vetoes were overturned by the Legislature.

In his June veto message, Scott said noncitizen voting was an important issue that deserved further consideration but said a town-by-town approach to municipal voting creates inconsistency in election policy. Scott reiterated that position on Tuesday when asked about the lawsuits during his weekly news conference.

“We can’t do this piecemeal because the approach that Winooski took was different from the approach that Montpelier had taken so we just need it all the same so there is no confusion,” Scott said.

Proponents say noncitizen voting was expanded after being approved by the people in the communities.

“We have a rich history of Vermonters coming together in their cities, towns, and villages to work together and chart a path forward that works best for their communities,” House Speaker Jill Krowinski said in June when the House overrode the governor’s veto.

Montpelier City Clerk John Odum said Tuesday he hadn’t seen the lawsuit, but since noncitizen voting was approved by the Legislature any changes would have to be made by the Legislature.

“I am not sure what is to be gained by suing the cities, the charters are now the law,” Odum said.

Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott didn’t return a call Tuesday seeking comment.