Home Commentary Embracing Inclusive Democracy —Non-U.S. Citizen Voting in Vermont

Embracing Inclusive Democracy —Non-U.S. Citizen Voting in Vermont

Photo by John Lazenby
by Pelin Kohn

It is encouraging to see recent developments in Winooski, Burlington, and Montpelier taking positive steps toward granting non-U.S. citizens the right to vote in local elections. These noteworthy initiatives have taken root in various Vermont cities emphasizing democratic participation and inclusivity.

In Winooski, ‘all resident voting’ takes place on Town Meeting Day every year. The process enables non-U.S. citizens to vote in city elections, contribute to municipal and school budgets, and vote on other important issues. It is commendable that all citizens are made aware of the democratic process. With ‘all legal resident voting,’ Burlington mirrors the commitment to inclusivity by allowing non-U.S. citizens to vote in all city elections. By providing clear guidelines on voter registration, the city clerk’s office facilitates the involvement of non-U.S. citizens in shaping the local political landscape. As part of its ‘non-citizen voting’ program, Montpelier offers non-U.S. citizens the chance to vote in all city elections on Town Meeting Day. As a result of allowing non-U.S. voters to run for city offices, these three cities set a good example of how local government should embrace diversity.

As part of a broader movement, the League of Women Voters of Vermont highlighted non-U.S. citizen voting rights in Vermont by their recent position, adopted at the 2023 Convention, which advocates for the inclusion of non-U.S. citizens in various local democratic processes, emphasizing municipal, school district, and special district levels.

“Local municipalities in Vermont have the right to pursue non-U.S. citizen voting for their community residents through the democratic processes outlined by their community and the state of Vermont. In other words, if the majority of votes throughout the process support the inclusion of non-citizens in voting at the local level, then democracy has spoken,” said Marguerite Adelman, vice president, League of Women Voters of Vermont and chair of the Non-U.S. Citizen Voting Committee. 

As Vermont continues to lead the way in fostering inclusive democracy, we must recognize and appreciate these efforts. Non-U.S. citizenship and voting is not simply a matter of policy; it is a reflection of our commitment to an inclusive and democratic society. For more information about this transformative movement, I encourage readers to explore the League of Women Voters of Vermont’s publication, “Non-U.S. Citizen Voting in Vermont.”

Pelin Kohn, Ph.D., is a Montpelier city councilor and a board member of the League of Women Voters ofVermont.