Democrats press forward with non-citizen voting as Vermont emerges as newest battleground
Cities in at least three states have authorized foreign citizens to vote, while Georgia ponders a constitutional amendment to ban it.
Democrats continue to press in liberal states to authorize non-citizens to vote, with two Vermont cities becoming the latest flashpoint in a legal and political battle that will define who may legally cast ballots in the future.
The cities of Montpelier and Winooski, both with populations under 8,000, have approved allowing non-citizens to cast ballots in municipal elections for mayor, city council and school board after Vermont's Legislature this summer overrode GOP governor Phil Scott's veto of a bill allowing non-citizen voting in those communities.
Scott opposes a town-by-town approach, warning it will create inconsistency in the state. "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," he said when he issued the veto.
Other Republicans believe it shouldn't be done at all.
"The Vermont Constitution requires U.S. citizenship as a qualification of voting," the Republican National Committee, the state GOP and several citizens argued in lawsuits filed last month challenging both communities' plans.
Congress voted in 1996 to prohibit non-citizens from voting in federal elections, but state constitutions vary on the issue, opening the door for some communities with diverse populations to push the envelope.
Vermont, however, is an unusual entrant to the debate after much larger, mixed-population cities like San Francisco, Chicago and New York entered the fray. Vermont is mostly white with less than 6% of its population foreign-born, census figures show.
But its move, coupled with other states dabbling with similar ideas, has Republican leaders in some states seeking to change their constitutions to forever ban noncitizen voting to keep future Democrat-controlled legislatures from lowering the threshold just by passing a law.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recently proposed such an amendment to his state's constitution, picking a new battle with his longtime nemesis, progressive voting activist Stacey Abrams.
"From New York City to San Francisco, more and more extreme liberal jurisdictions are extending voting to non-citizens," he told Just the News. "Citizens-only voting has overwhelming bipartisan support.
"Like with commonsense election integrity measures like voter ID, Stacey Abrams and her allies seem to be the only ones at odds with American people," he added. "That is why I'm fighting for a citizens-only voting amendment to the Georgia constitution."
Voting experts see a slow but steady trend in liberal states.
"Non-citizens are slowly gaining voting rights," the Pew Charitable Trusts declared in a recent report on the trend.
In addition to the Vermont towns, Pew noted that San Francisco, nine cities in Maryland and two communities in Massachusetts have all approved noncitizen voting, although the latter are still awaiting state legislative approval.
Now Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles are also moving forward with plans to allow foreign citizens to vote in local U.S. elections, Pew added.
Democratic state Sen. Celina Villanueva is leading the charge in Illinois to allow foreign citizens living in the state to vote in school board elections.
"We're essentially doing taxation without representation," she was quoted recently as saying. "We have a large population of non-citizens in this state and throughout this country and they should have their voices heard, especially when it comes to the education of their children."
On the flip side, voters in Alabama, Florida, Colorado and North Dakota have voted to amend their state constitutions to mandate ballots be cast only by U.S. citizens. Maine attempted a similar amendment movement but failed earlier this year.
The GOP sees opposing noncitizen voting as a winning issue, vowing to fight it in every community in America where it is attempted.
"Democrats are trying to dismantle the integrity of our elections," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said recently. "In addition to attacking widely supported safeguards like voter ID, Democrats also want foreign citizens to vote in American elections. Republicans are fighting back on this far-left assault against election integrity. Unlike radical Democrats, we believe that our elections should be decided solely by American citizens."