[Image via sftravel]
The City of San Francisco has announced the availability of voter registration for non-citizens in school board elections in response to a citywide referendum. SFGate has more:
Non-citizen parents and guardians of children in San Francisco Unified School District are now able to register to vote for Board of Education members, the city’s Department of Elections announced.
The department began issuing voter registration forms today for the Nov. 6 election.
San Francisco voters in 2016 first passed Proposition N, which allowed non-citizen voting, winning with 54 percent of the vote. In May of this year, the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance amending the Municipal Elections Code to begin implementing Prop N by requiring the elections department to develop the required forms and documents.
This morning, several supporters of non-citizen voting, including community groups and the supervisors behind the Prop N, celebrated the launch outside City Hall.
“The best way to embrace democracy is to practice democracy and the best way to practice democracy is to vote,” Supervisor Norman Yee said. “One of the best things that a parent can do is to select leadership for their kids’ education.”
“This is no-brainer legislation. Why would we not want our parents invested in the education of their children?” Supervisor Hillary Ronen said today. “We’re excited about this victory but we want every immigrant parent to reach out to community-based organizations to educate themselves on this law before they go out to vote.”
“Voting is paramount to having a voice,” said Stevon Cook, vice-president of the SFUSD Board of Education. “Seeing our families feel like they have to go into hiding, like they can’t have their concerns heard because of the attacks from the White House is something we want to stand firmly against. This is part of an overall strategy that assures that families in our city, whether they’re citizens or not, they have a voice in the direction and future of our schools.”
There are concerns, however, that registration could expose voters to immigration enforcement via data-sharing with the federal government:
Although the launch is being considered a victory for non-citizens, some have expressed concern about whether voting information about non-citizen voters can be shared with the federal government, possibly putting the undocumented voters at-risk for deportation.
“The victory is that San Franciscans voted for this. In the face of what’s happening nationwide now, we stand strong … but there is also a risk. So we as San Franciscans have set aside a fund to make sure that these immigrant communities are fully educated on their rights, but also their risks in this time and place in our country,” Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer said.
She said she is not certain if the non-citizen voter registration can be kept private from the federal government because all voting records are public information. She added that the voting records should be open to the public to ensure the non-citizen voters are legitimate people.
“I think in this case in particular, what is very risky is that we don’t know where this president will go,” she said. “Are there risks involved? Absolutely. But quite frankly, there are risks involved for all of us with the Trump Administration,”
According to the elections department, non-citizen voting materials are required to have a notice letting the voter know that any information provided to the department may be obtained by the federal government.
The program is temporary and will sunset after four years, requiring city lawmakers to extend it:
The ordinance will permit non-citizen voting for the Board of Education elections from November of this year through Nov. 2022. After that, the ordinance will expire and supervisors must vote on whether to adopt an ordinance to continue it.
To be eligible, a non-citizen voter must be a San Francisco resident, 18 years or older and be a parent, legal guardian or caregiver to a child under the age of 19.
Non-citizen voters must register to vote by Oct. 22 for this November’s election. For more information, voters can visitwww.sfelections.org/noncitizen/voting.
This is an interesting program and one which is being eyed in other communities, with all of the attendant excitement and nervousness about what it could mean for participating voters. It’s definitely worth watching for a sense of how many new voters join the rolls – and if that decision has any consequences for those who do. Stay tuned …