Burlington’s undocumented deserve the right to vote

Chris Harrell

It’s a wonder why Burlington is not the first in the state to pass a non-citizen voting measure and why we aren’t actively pushing for it right now.

Our city comes in first place in many different measures across the state of Vermont.

It’s the largest city in terms of both population and economic capacity in the state, according to the 2018 U.S. Census. It claims the largest hospital, university and public transit system in the state, according to the Vermont state website.

It’s also been long renowned for its political experiments, gaining national notoriety for electing socialist Bernie Sanders as mayor in the middle of the Cold War’s anti-Communist sentiment.

Montpelier gave non-citizen residents the right to vote in local elections last November in a public referendum, according to a November 2018 VTDigger article.

The measure was approved by a 2-1 margin and won the praise and support of Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson.

Burlington considered non-citizen voting in 2015 and the measure was defeated, according to a September 2018 Seven Days article. But, things in Burlington have changed since 2015.

Because of immigration policies imposed by President Donald Trump, Burlington is a sanctuary city to immigrants and refugees.

That means a growing portion of our community will be made up of non-citizens.

All non-citizens pay sales tax and most pay some income tax at a state and federal level, according to the IRS’s website.

They shop at local businesses, work in local industries and participate in daily community life.

They deserve a say in the community that they have a stake in.

Non-citizens are barred from voting in federal elections, but the city retains the ability to give them a vote.

The change would have to be approved by the Vermont State Legislature, according to the Vermont State Constitution.

This is a greater task than to pass the measure in Burlington.

But it can’t happen at all unless we pass it first. Whether or not the legislature would approve it is beyond the point; it is simply the right thing for us to do as a community to push for non-citizen voting rights.

To hold back from advocating for members of our community who are being deprived of their right to vote would be to turn a blind eye to injustice.