There have been controversy and accusations swirling since the Special Town Meeting and Vote on Sept. 23 (with continued voting on Sept. 27) on the issue of the Miller-Driscoll Renovation.

One specific complaint has centered on the fact that several people who are town residents and pay taxes here–but are not U.S. citizens–were unable to vote on the referendum question.

Among the comments GOOD Morning Wilton received on our Facebook page and spotted on social media were several very similar to what Pranav Suri wrote:  “Clear case of ‘Taxation without Representation.’ I reached out to Rep. Tom O’Dea and Sen. Toni Boucher regarding this and she said she will look into this and research the 2003 bill around ‘Voting by non citizens in town meetings’ for consideration in the next legislative session.”

That may be an uphill battle, as CT’s current state law only allows U.S. citizens to vote in local elections.

“There’s a state law that states that for any town meeting, other than an election, that people who are U.S. citizens, who are 18 or over, who are liable to their town for property assessed of not less than $1,000 on the last completed grand list–which for us was Oct. 2013–may vote. So non-U.S. citizens are not included in that. You must be a U.S. citizen and you must be 18 or over. That is for any kind of budget referendum vote at a town meeting,” explains Carole Young-Kleinfeld, one of Wilton’s two registrars.

That means that there is no Wilton vote–town or otherwise–in which non-U.S. citizens can participate.

“To be an ‘elector’ of the town–the term for a registered voter–you have to be a U.S. citizen, and 18 or over, unless you are voting in a primary and will turn 18 by election day. That’s the only exception, for 17-year-olds. There are no exceptions for non-U.S. citizens. That’s per state law.”

According to the Harvard Political Review, there are no exceptions for non-U.S. citizens in any state. “Once commonly accepted in the United States, non-citizen voting has been extinct since Arkansas became the last state to ban it in 1926. Although it is not mentioned in the United States Constitution, non-citizen voting is now explicitly prohibited in several state constitutions.”

Controversy about other issues related to the vote aside, the fact that some Wilton residents could not vote because of their citizenship status has no basis in the decision of town officials or because of the town charter.

“The charter says that for special town meetings, electors may vote and any others who are entitled may vote under state law,” Young-Kleinfeld reiterates.

There were some voters who showed up at the Clune Center Auditorium to vote who were not on the last completed grand list, but they were registered voters, so they were “of course” allowed to vote, according to the registrars. “But we had several who just moved to town so they weren’t on the last completed grand list, and they had never registered to vote. So there were a couple of those who were not able to vote.”

The law is listed in the CT General Statutes under Chapter 90 Title 7, which covers “Municipalities.”  The specific sections are 7-1 through 7-9d, governing “Town and Other Community Meetings.”

“Any change would have to be something that a legislator would propose,” says Young-Kleinfeld, “and it would just go through the normal legislative process–be drafted, have a public hearing and would be subject to a vote of our legislature.”

It certainly didn’t make the registrars happy to turn people away.

“It’s always terrible to turn people away! But it’s worse to feel like you might be violating a state law,” Young-Kleinfeld says. “We really do give everyone who winds up at our moderator table the time and attention, to listen to their situation and to do our very best to make sure that, to our best ability, that we are following the letter of the law.”

Information regarding all elements of voting–registering to vote, absentee ballots, eligibility, etc.–is available on the town registrars’ website. The registrars also just wrote an op-ed for about making sure that people do everything they can to make their voting experience easier on Nov. 4.