Voters in Burlington, Vermont could soon determine whether refugees and permanent residents who aren’t citizens will be allowed to cast their own ballots in local city elections.

Councilmember Adam Roof sponsored a resolution, passed this week by the city council, saying allowing non-citizen residents to vote is simply a matter of fairness. Roof’s resolution, which passed the 12-member council with two ‘no’ votes, reads that the “City Council believes the right to vote is an integral aspect of membership in any community [and] all those living in Burlington, regardless of citizenship status, are impacted by the decisions made by their local government,” later noting that “disenfranchising members of our community based on their citizenship status stands in opposition to the most deeply held values of the City.”

The resolution also notes that 7.5% of the city population were ineligible to vote in local elections because of their status as refugees. Roof said that figure doesn’t include other legal non-citizens, like permanent residents. “We’re talking school budgets and city council races,” he said. “The people impacted should be able to vote.”

Roof’s resolution doesn’t cover undocumented immigrants, just refugees and other legal permanent residents.

In addition to voters approving the change, the Vermont legislature would also need to act before non-citizens could vote.

The move to allow non-citizens to vote at the local level wouldn’t be completely unprecedented. While non-citizens are generally not allowed to vote in federal or state elections, Maryland has a measure in its state constitution recognizing the authority of local governments to set their own rules on voting. Some towns, including Barnesville, have allowed non-citizens to vote since 1918, while other cities, like Hyattsville, College Park, Mount Rainier, and Riverdale Park, have passed measures granting non-citizens voting rights in more recent years. Other cities, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco have allowed non-citizens to vote in school board elections.

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