MONTPELIER — The Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to override a pair of charter changes vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott.
The proposed changes, which would allow non-citizen residents of Montpelier and Winooski to vote in local elections, passed by identical 103-47 roll-call votes. With all 150 members present and voting, both bills required 100 yes votes to advance.
Both bills were messaged to the Senate under a suspension of House rules. If the Senate concurs as expected, both charter changes will become law.
Among Bennington and Windham County representatives, Republicans Rep. Sally Achey, R-Rutland-Bennington, and Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington 2-2, joined a united bloc of House GOP members in voting no. The remaining Democrats, Independents and Progressives representing the two southern counties voted yes.
Rep. John Gannon, D-Windham 6, introduced the Montpelier charter change, H. 177, on the floor. He noted that Montpelier voters passed the measure by a 2,857-1488 vote, and that the House passed the change twice — once in 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and again in 2021.
“Few bills have received as much consideration and debate as this charter amendment,” Gannon said. He said testimony was clear that “the Legislature has the discretion to allow Montpelier to allow non-citizens to vote. “
The Winooski charter change, H. 227, was presented by Rep. Hal Colston, D-Chittenden 6-7 before it passed.
Rep. Arthur Peterson, R-Rutland-2, pointed out that the voting requirements set forth in the state constitution specifies voting rights are extended to citizens of the United States.
“Without a very, very clear understanding I don’t know how we get by that and allow non-citizens to vote,” Peterson said.
Speaker Jill Krowinski, in a prepared statement, said the override votes “reiterate our strong support for honoring the voices of communities in making these decisions.”
“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. I am proud of today’s votes which support the will of the citizens of Montpelier and Winooski, and I look forward to continuing the work to increase participation in our democracy,” Krowinski said.
The Senate is expected to vote on an override of S. 107, a bill barring the release of certain juvenile arrest records, later this week. That would then be sent to the House for an override vote if it passes.
Also due to be considered by the Senate this week is S. 79, a bill which would provide for a statewide rental unit registry and allocate funds to a pair of programs designed to bring unused properties back into active use. Tuesday, Scott expressed misgivings about the bill.
“It creates more bureaucracy, it creates more expense on the state level ... and I don’t think that we’ve fully contemplated how much that will in effect cost us,” Scott said during his weekly COVID-19 media briefing.