Mock election held in Burlington

03/07/07 12:00AM By John Dillon
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(Host) While Vermonters went to the polls around the state, a group that can't vote held a mock election in Burlington.

The goal was to build support for non-citizen voting. The practice is allowed in some states, and the Vermont Immigrant Voting Alliance hopes to win voting rights here as well.

VPR's John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The Ward 6 polling place in Burlington is a middle school gymnasium. It's where the Vermont Immigrant Voting Alliance held its voting demonstration.

(Ceroni) "The person gets a real ballot, which is identical to the ballot for Ward 6, except we have it in green."

(Dillon) Marta Ceroni is from Italy. She's working to become a naturalized citizen, but the process can take a decade or more. In the meantime, she wants to get more involved in community decision-making. She's paid taxes here for years, but she says the issue is much more than having a say in the city's finances.

(Ceroni) "What we really care about is posing this question in this case to the city of Burlington: how do they want to welcome immigrants here? How do they see them as part of the community? Are they part of the community, or not? If they are, then they should have a say."

(Dillon) Burlington has become an increasingly international city. The last census showed that about eight percent or roughly 3,100 people are from other countries. Fourteen percent of the city's school children speak English as a second language.

Michael Radermacher is a bio-physicist at the University of Vermont. He's originally from Germany and wants someday to vote in Vermont.

(Radermacher) "I think it's important to just have more participation and be more involved with the community and not just watch from the outside. At the moment I can only just convince my friends to vote for A, B or C. But I would like to be able to do this myself."

(Dillon) members of the alliance say they don't want to cast ballots in state or national contests.

But the group does hope to convince voters next year to amend the city charter to allow immigrant voting for local elections.

If the city charter is changed, the next step would be for the Legislature to approve the amendment.

There may be a constitutional question though.

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz says the Vermont Constitution appears to limit voting in state elections to U.S. citizens. But she says it may be possible that the constitution could allow non-citizen voting in local elections.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm John Dillon in Burlington.
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