San Francisco just became the largest U.S. city to allow non-citizens to vote in local races. This gives all of those who live, work, and raise their children in the Bay Area an opportunity to weigh in on the school board without requiring citizenship. In 2016, San Francisco residents voted to allow non-citizens with children in the city’s school system to vote for school board members. The city has spent about $310,000 setting up a new registry system but are already facing one major issue. At this time, only 49 non-citizens have registered to vote and that may be due to fears the of being listed on a roll that could be used to identify them by immigration services.
San Francisco is allowing more undocumented people to vote in local elections.
Noncitizens, including those without legal status, will be allowed to vote only in a San Francisco school board race. Just a little more than 40 have registered to vote so far. https://t.co/fPjQxk3ZmW
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) October 27, 2018
The program has opened up school board elections to non-citizens who are over the age of 18, city residents and have children under age 19. Now they are taking the program and allowing all undocumented residents to vote on local elections.
California has been a leader when it comes to offering opportunities to those here without papers, including providing designated driver’s licenses, college tuition breaks and child healthcare. Voting is a first in the state and many see it as a reflections of California’s huge immigrant population. San Francisco had started registering non-citizens to vote in the Nov. 6 election back in July and each voter would cost the city to about $6,300 per voter. City officials say one-third of all parents whose children are in San Francisco public schools are non-citizens.
“It will speak to that sort of sense that change is coming to the United States and that change is being done extralegally somehow,” Louis DeSipio, a professor of political science at UC Irvine, told the LA Times.
City officials hope the program gets more non-citizen parents involved but getting them to register to vote might be the hardest part.
Next week undocumented immigrants and permanent legal residents will have their first chance to vote for San Francisco school board. I wrote for @thenation about America's history of non-citizen voting, and the cities now bringing it back https://t.co/CAHjDALjN1
— Rachel Cohen (@rmc031) November 1, 2018
While San Francisco is a sanctuary city, many non-citizens are concerned about having their information out in public records. Following the election of President Donald Trump, fears that signing up to vote could expose non-citizens to immigration authorities might have put a damper on the program and a big reason why only 49 have registered.
Shamann Walton, a San Francisco Unified School District commissioner, says that the low-turnout this year isn’t indicative of the success of the program and sees why many haven’t come forward to vote.
“I share the same fear [as] our undocumented residents,” Walton told the LA Times. “I don’t expect people to rush to the polls and give the federal government the opportunity to attack our city residents.”
San Francisco follows the lead of a few other cities in the U.S. where non-citizens are allowed to vote in local elections, not state or federal.
The 'sanctuary city' will be the largest city in America allowing non-citizens to vote. https://t.co/hzo4W3VhzU
— Western Journal (@WestJournalism) October 24, 2018
San Francisco’s move to allow non-citizens to vote has caused some backlash from conservatives that are using it as a political issue. They say it’s yet another example of California’s efforts to protect people in this country illegally from the president’s immigration crackdown. Yet several cities in Massachusetts and Chicago have already allowed at various times non-citizens to vote in local elections.