Officials in Winooski are considering sending a ballot question to voters sometime in the future about allowing everyone living in the Onion City to vote, regardless of citizenship status. It would only cover city-level elected positions and city-wide ballot measures.
Last year, Montpelier voters approved this same idea; state lawmakers still have to approve their measure for it to become a local law. In October, the Burlington City Council approved a resolution that would do the same thing. The council members sent it to the Burlington Charter Change Committee to be worked on.
In Winooski, some members of the city Charter Commission see a potential stumbling block with how to maintain a voter list that includes non-citizens without allowing the federal citizenship status of anyone on it to become a public record. There’s also some question of what such a measure should be officially called in the first place.
Some commission members said they’d want to take any mention of ‘citizen voting’ or ‘non-citizen voting’ completely out of the picture and instead officially call it ‘resident voting’ or something similar. One member noted that Montpelier’s official language does this, but he also noted that he’s not sure Winooski should use that same language.
“The voter registration requirements for a municipal voter (in Montpelier) — they have the language, ‘a legal resident’,” Eric Covey said. “What does that mean? ‘A legal resident’ is just mixing up a bunch of different terms. We could ask John Odum, the Montpelier City Clerk, if he’d be willing to provide his perspective there.”
The commission took Covey up on his idea Tuesday night. It voted to ask him to reach out to Montpelier’s city clerk for clarification. The group meets again on December 17.