Burlington voters struck down a proposal in 2015 to allow Queen City residents who aren’t U.S. citizens to vote in city elections. However, the City Council Charter Change Committee voted unanimously Thursday to send the issue to the full council again.
“I think that we’ve done a lot of legwork here to address some of the concerns that were at issue back then, but I also think a lot has changed since then,” Councilor Ben Traverse said. “I think people view democracy, and the ability to participate in elections, differently.”
The changes include Montpelier and Winooski both allowing non-citizen voting since Burlington voters rejected it.
“I was over at Juniper House, the senior housing, and ran into two women there who are Canadian and said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this!’,” Councilor Sarah Carpenter said.
Councilor Gene Bergman, the chair of the Charter Change Committee, believes the full council will take up non-citizen voting on November 21.
Meanwhile, ranked choice voting will return to Burlington on December 6 in the City Council East District special election to succeed Jack Hanson. At the moment, ranked choice voting is to be used for council seats only. The committee has recently considered an expansion so that mayoral and School Board elections would also be decided that way.
“We had discussed this and (determined) we would try it through on Town Meeting, and I want to see that happen,” Carpenter said. “My constituents are still very leery of the system, and I want to give them time to see it in action.”
The committee voted 2-1 to advance the ranked choice expansion to the full council, with Carpenter opposed. Although Traverse voted in favor, he’s worried that the expansion may be a dead end.
“The mayor that we have now is the same mayor that vetoed a similar matter before,” he said. “And so I have some concern, particularly given the current makeup of our council, as to whether or not this has a path forward.”
The ranked choice expansion could go to the full City Council at any of its last three meetings of the year on November 21, December 5 and December 12. It wasn’t clear Thursday night which meeting that might be.