In Which the Vermont Supreme Court is Wrong

Vermont’s State government enacted a law allowing non-citizens to vote in certain local elections. In particular, the law allows Montpelier and Winooski to change their charters so that non-citizens can vote in those municipalities’ elections. Suits ensued, and the matter wound up before Vermont’s Supreme Court.

That court then proceeded to rule in favor of the law, arguing in part

[W]e conclude that the statute allowing noncitizens to vote in local Montpelier elections does not violate Chapter II, § 42 because that constitutional provision does not apply to local elections.

The court, right after that claim, actually quoted that chapter and verse:

Chapter II, § 42 of the Vermont Constitution provides:
Every person of the full age of eighteen years who is a citizen of the United States, having resided in this State for the period established by the General Assembly and who is of a quiet and peaceable behavior, and will take the following oath or affirmation, shall be entitled to all the privileges of a voter of this state:
You solemnly swear (or affirm) that whenever you give your vote or suffrage, touching any matter that concerns the State of Vermont, you will do it so as in your conscience you shall judge will most conduce to the best good of the same, as established by the Constitution, without fear or favor of any person.

The court then went through a convoluted argument to claim that the text of this Chapter and Section does not say what it says.

It’s really cut and dried, and hung in the cold cellar. Only persons who are citizens and have met a couple of additional—not substitute—criteria are permitted, via the plain, obvious, and rational meaning of the State’s constitution, to vote in any election, at any level of jurisdiction, in the State.

The State’s Supreme Court…messed up.

The Vermont Supreme Court’s ruling can be read here.

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