Vermont House overrides Scott’s vetoes of noncitizen voting measures

Vermont Statehouse
The Vermont Statehouse on Aug. 24, 2020. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Democrats in the Vermont House succeeded Wednesday in overriding Gov. Phil Scott’s vetoes of charter changes that would allow noncitizens to vote in local elections in Montpelier and Winooski. 

In votes of 103-47, Democrats were able surpass the two-thirds majority needed to counteract Scott’s vetoes. Every House Republican, plus an independent, Rep. Terry Norris of Shoreham, moved to sustain Scott’s veto, while all Democrats and Progressives and four independents voted to override the governor. 

Override votes in the Senate are still needed for the bills to become law. Those votes are planned this week, and Senate Democrats believe they have the votes they need.

Before the vote on the Winooski charter change, H.227, Rep. Hal Colston, D-Winooski, said voters in his city had voted “overwhelmingly” to allow legal residents to vote in local elections. 

“This is the local control that Vermont champions. This is the local democracy that other states covet,” Colson said. 

“The voters of Winooski have spoken loudly and leaders from the city of Winooski are fearlessly coping with change. The governor’s veto of H.227 must be overridden,” he said.

The Winooski measure would allow legal residents to vote in both city government and school district elections, while the Montpelier measure, H.177, applies to just city government elections. 

Rep. Mary Hooper, D-Montpelier, said noncitizen residents of her city are active members of the community and “friends and neighbors helping make Montpelier a great place.”

“It is only right that we acknowledge their importance in our community by asking them to vote on local matters. Montpelier welcomes all to be part of our civic life,” Hooper said.

Scott vetoed the charter changes earlier this month over concerns about creating an “inconsistency in election policy” in municipalities across the state. 

He called noncitizen voting a “policy discussion that deserves further consideration and debate.”

But asked lawmakers to “develop a statewide policy or a uniform template and process” for municipalities that want to expand voting rights to all legal residents.  

However, Democrats said that they wanted to move to swiftly uphold the cities’ charter changes.

“These charters expand local voting rights to residents of these respective communities, and these decisions were made by the voters after robust discussion and deliberation,” House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, said in a statement. 

“We have seen states across the country take action to restrict voter access, yet here in Vermont we continue the work to expand access to voting for the residents of our great state.”

The last time the Legislature overrode a Scott veto was in 2020, when the House and Senate overturned the governor’s veto of the Global Warming Solutions Act.

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Xander Landen

About Xander

Xander Landen is VTDigger's political reporter. He previously worked at the Keene Sentinel covering crime, courts and local government. Xander got his start in public radio, writing and producing stories for NPR affiliates including WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. While at WNYC, he contributed to an award-winning investigation of how police departments shield misconduct records from the public. He is a graduate of Tufts University and his work has also appeared in PBS NewsHour and The Christian Science Monitor.

Email: [email protected]

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