RNC lawsuit challenges noncitizen voting measures in Montpelier and Winooski

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Winooski Mayor Kristine Lott and Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson said Tuesday they had yet to see the RNC’s filing. But Watson said voters made their thoughts clear.

MONTPELIER – The Republican National Committee and the Vermont GOP are suing the cities of Montpelier and Winooski over their recently-passed town charters that allow noncitizens to vote in municipal elections.

Last November, voters in both cities approved the changes, which only apply to ballot measures such as school budgets and city council races. The Vermont Legislature approved the charter changes, and later voted to override vetoes by Governor Phil Scott.

On Twitter, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel described the measures as a “radical scheme passed by state Democrats” and a “blatant attack on election integrity.”

“We’re all very grateful that measure was passed, because this was the will of the voters of Montpelier,” Watson said.

RNC National Spokesperson Paris Dennard said the lawsuits are part of a broader effort to defend against fraud.

“You have to be a United States citizen in order to vote,” Dennard said. “What this is doing, if not stopped, is a direct assault on election integrity.”

In a joint statement, Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, Attorney General T.J. Donovan, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint and House Speaker Jill Krowinski accused the RNC of peddling misinformation about election security.

“At a time when we are seeing legislatures with Republican-controlled majorities enact restrictive voting laws, it comes as no surprise that the RNC and VTGOP would sue two municipalities for expanding voting access to members of their communities,” the statement said. “But that’s not the Vermont way.”

Governor Phil Scott has expressed concern with the towns’ measures, which he said were well-intentioned but inconsistent with state policies. On Tuesday, he said adopting a town-by-town approach to voting eligibility is the wrong approach.

“The approach that Winooski took was different than the approach Montpelier had taken, so I think we just need it all the same, and I think that can be done very easily,” Scott said.

Vermont Law School Professor Jared Carter said he doesn’t think the lawsuits will hold up. But, he added, there’s not much legal precedent to go by.

“The purpose of a constitutional right, and this constitutional right in particular, is to provide a floor to protect the rights of Vermonters,” Carter said. “It’s not to provide a sword to limit the abilities of cities and towns to provide additional protections.”

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