Councilman Adam Roof, who wrote the resolution which passed in a 10-2 vote, argued all residents of the city are impacted by decisions made at City Hall, and therefore should be allowed to vote regardless of citizenship status.
“The right to vote is more important now than ever before," Roof told WCAX-TV. "All residents have the right, in my eyes, to participate in the local democratic process, and the highest level of participation in that process is being able to cast your vote,"
He said the resolution aligns with the city's 2014 Diversity and Equity Strategic Plan to create a more engaged community. More than 3,000 residents are ineligible to vote due to their status as refugees, the resolution said.
One resident spoke out against the measure, accusing the council of "political pandering" to voters.
"We have 40,000-plus registered voters," the unidentified resident said. "How many of those are nonresident college students who vote on our property taxes, our legislators, our city leadership -- which includes all of you -- and much more, and then move away?"
Burlington, the hometown of Democratic socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, has a population of approximately 42,000 people. It is also home to the University of Vermont, which has more than 10,000 undergraduate students.
Council President Kurt Wright said he voted against the legislation because he believes only American citizens should be able to vote.
“I think that’s important. I would not expect to move to another country and not become a citizen and expect to be voting in their elections,” said Wright, a Republican. “We voted on this just a few years ago and the citizens of Burlington voted significantly against it so I’m not supportive of this proposal.”
The measure still needs approval from the state Legislature before it becomes law.