Non-Citizen Voting in SF School Board Elections Falls Flat

Just 49 San Francisco residents have signed up for a $310,000 program that allows non-citizens to vote in local school board elections. That brings the cost of the program to a whopping $6,327 per voter.

San Francisco voted in 2016 to allow non-citizens with children in the school system to weigh in on members of their school board.

“We assumed that it would be many thousands, potentially that could register, and so far we’re at 49,” San Francisco Director of Elections John Arntz told CBS News. “We had to create a separate database. We created a separate ballot for these folks. We have separate roster pages for the polling places, we have a separate registration affidavit. We have a separate vote by mail ballot application, we have a separate website page.”

Many would-be voters were likely spooked by the following warning on the San Francisco Department of Elections website.

Any information you provide to the Department of Elections, including your name and address, may be obtained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies, organizations, and individuals. In addition, if you apply for naturalization, you will be asked whether you have ever registered or voted in a federal, state, or local election in the United States. You may wish to consult with an immigration attorney, an organization that protects immigrant rights, or other knowledgeable source before providing any personal information to the Department of Elections and before registering to vote in San Francisco Board of Education Elections. You can find a list of nonprofit organizations that specialize in protecting the rights of immigrants on sfelections.org.

San Francisco is one of a handful of jurisdictions that now allows non-citizens to vote in local elections of some sort. Chicago allows non-citizen voting for school board members. New York did so until 2003 when it began appointing them. Several cities in Maryland also allow non-citizens to vote in mayoral and city council races.

While accurate statistics are hard to come by, one-third of all parents with children in the San Francisco public school system are believed to be non-citizens.


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