Charter Change Process & All-Resident Voting
In 2019, Winooski City Council established a Charter Commission charged with “examining options to present Winooski voters with a charter change that would enable non-citizen residents to vote in Winooski municipal elections, protect Winooski voter information, align the School and City’s charters, and consider additional governance changes identified by the Council, staff, and public. As part of this process, the Commission is charged with conducting public outreach to the community through public information sessions, forums, and direct outreach.”
On July 27, 2020, the Charter Commission approved a series of Charter change recommendations to present to the City Council. On August 3rd and August 18, 2020, the City Council considered these recommendations. On August 18th, the City Council voted to present the following charter change recommendations to the public for consideration at a special city meeting to be held in conjunction with the November 2020 General Election. The City considered charter amendments that:
- Allow all legal residents of the City (including those who are not U.S. citizens) to vote in City and school elections and meetings, provide certain protections to the voter checklists maintained by the City Clerk, and to make other conforming amendments.
- Permit voters to adopt Charter amendments that have been approved by the Vermont Legislature for other municipalities.
- Conform the Charter to state law requirements for signing petitions.
- Remove language referring to volunteer firefighters.
- Permit the City Manager to give to the staff person performing human resource functions the title of “Human Resource Director”.
- Amend the provision relating to the tax assessment of commercial properties to conform to current practice.
- Modify the Oath of Office language to eliminate religious references.
On November 3rd, Winooski Voters approved all 3 Charter Change Ballot questions, eventually resulting in Vermont House Bill H.227.
On June 23, 2021, the Vermont House of Representatives voted to override Governor Phil Scott’s June 1 veto of H.227, making All-Resident voting in Winooski possible.
6.23.21 - House Overrides Scott Veto of H.227: On Wednesday, June 23, 2021, the Vermont House of Representatives voted to override Governor Phil Scott’s vetoes of H.227.
6.1.21 - Governor Scott Vetos H.227: On June 1, 2021, Governor Scott returned without signature and vetoed bills of the following titles:
- H.227, An act relating to approval of amendments to the charter of the City of Winooski
- Click here to view the H.227 veto letter
The reasons outlined in these letters are included below:
“This is an important policy discussion that deserves further consideration and debate. Allowing a highly variable town-by-town approach to municipal voting creates inconsistency in election policy, as well as separate and unequal classes of residents potentially eligible to vote on local issues. I believe it is the role of the Legislature to establish clarity and consistency on this matter. This should include defining how municipalities determine which legal residents may vote on local issues, as well as specifying the local matters they may vote on. Returning these bills provides the opportunity to do this important work.
“For these reasons I am returning this legislation without my signature pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution. I understand these charter changes are well-intentioned, but I ask the Legislature to revisit the issue of non-citizen voting in a more comprehensive manner and develop a statewide policy or a uniform template and process for those municipalities wishing to grant the right of voting in local elections to all legal residents.”
Via VTDigger: "Winooski’s request to allow noncitizen residents to vote in local elections won preliminary approval from the Vermont Senate on Friday... A final vote on the bill is expected next week." Click here to read this update.