WINOOSKI, Vt. (AP) — Two Vermont cities are considering whether to allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections to have a say in how city tax money is spent and who represents them on their city councils.

The city council in Winooski, one of the more diverse communities in Vermont, approved allowing voters to decide in November whether the city should make a charter change to allow non-residents to vote. And a citizen petition is making the rounds in Montpelier to make a similar change.

The concept is "if you're a resident of Winooski, you should be able to vote in local issues that impact you," said Winooski City Councilor Eric Covey.

"I think right now we have a large number of community members who are paying taxes, who may own homes, may volunteer on our boards and commissions in our neighborhoods and may send their kids to our schools but don't have any say in how their municipal tax dollars are being spend on local issues that impact their quality of life or on their kids' education," he said. "And I think that's really unjust."

Several Maryland communities allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, and San Francisco does for school board elections. Any city charter changes in Vermont would have to be approved by the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

State Republican Party Chairwoman Deb Billado said it's up to voters to decide what's best for their communities. "I think those issues are best left at the local level," she said Tuesday.

In Montpelier, City Clerk John Odum said that on every Town Meeting Day, when residents vote on local issues, one or two people ask why their spouses can't give input on city decisions.

In Winooski, Lauren Sampson, a lawyer, is active in her community, serving on the city library committee and as an alternate on the planning commission, but she can't vote on local issues because she's a Canadian citizen. She said the process of getting U.S. citizenship is lengthy and expensive with other barriers for some.

Winooski resident Jim Weston said he thinks it's ok for non-citizens to vote on local issues if they live in Winooski. Fatuma Maalim, who also lives in the city, said giving non-citizens the opportunity to vote would allow more voices to be heard.

The exact language of proposed Winooski charter change is still being worked out, Covey said.

Resident Brittany Waelde, who moved to Winooski in the spring, said there's a sizable immigrant population in the city so it makes sense for non-citizens to be able to vote on local issues. "Why shouldn't they have a say," she said.


This story has been corrected to reflect that school boards are separate entities from cities and that legislative seats are state elections.