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SF Gives Ballot Access To Non-Citizens, First In The State

by Jeff Powers, published

San Francisco, CA. - San Francisco is now the first city in California to allow non-citizens to vote in elections.

In the November 2016 election, San Francisco voters passed Proposition N, the Non-Citizen Voting in School Board Elections measure by a vote of 54% to 46%. It was enacted by the Board of Supervisors in May.

The statute reads "Proposition N gives voting rights in San Francisco School Board elections to non-citizen residents of San Francisco who are of legal voting age, not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction, and who are parents, legal guardians, or legally recognized caregivers of children under the age of 19 living in San Francisco."

The Board of Education election is scheduled for October 22, fifteen days before the November election. While it is the first California city to enact the law, San Francisco isn't the first city in the U.S. to do so. Chicago, Illinois and Cambridge, Massachusetts, already allow non-citizen residents to vote in school board elections. In a story on ABC 7, Supervisor Sandra Lee said, "As a parent myself and a former member of the SF Board of Education it is critical that the voices of all parents are at the table particularly those that have historically been denied a voice in the process."

And Supervisor Norman Yee, "We want to give immigrants the right to vote."

Opposition Speaks Out

This clears the way for non-citizens to act pretty much as citizens in California, just go down the list:

And now, voting rights. The San Francisco law means non-citizens now can indirectly help decide how taxpayer money will be spent, by the billions of dollars.

Harmeet Dhillon attended the launch event in San Francisco. She says she voted against the measure in 2016. "The reason I voted against it is that I think the right to vote is something that goes along with citizenship and should be." Dhillon says the school board is already obligated to look out for the interests of all children in the system. "I don't think that people who have otherwise tenuous ties to San Francisco given their lack of legal residence should be making long term decisions about that structure and process," said Dhillon.

Non-citizen voting will be available at every Board of Education election until November 2022. It will expire then unless the Board of Supervisors adopts an ordinance allowing it to continue.

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