In some school districts in California, a large bloc of parents can’t vote in school board elections because they’re not citizens. San Francisco officials want to put an initiative on the state ballot to let non-citizen parents of public schoolchildren vote in school elections. Public school parents who are illegal immigrants also would be able to vote. Almost one-fifth of adult Californians are non-citizens, says the San Jose Mercury News:
“It’s almost a necessity for many cities,” said Joaquin Avila, a law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles and a voting-rights expert who wrote a 2003 study on non-citizen voting and its potential impact on California. “You can’t have a growing number of residents in your jurisdictions that are not part of the body politic. ”
Matt Gonzalez, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and author of the proposal, favors non-citizen voting in all city elections.
Until 1926, almost two dozen states allowed non-citizens to vote. Chicago and several suburban towns in Maryland allow the practice, and Washington, D.C., is considering doing the same. New York City, which for decades allowed non-citizens, regardless of their immigration status, to vote in school board elections, also is looking to open up the vote in all local elections.
Unions have a lot of clout in school board elections because members and their relatives turn out to vote when so many people don’t. But I’m not sure enfranchising immigrants would make much difference — assuming it’s legal and practical to tie voting rights to school enrollment. Many immigrants haven’t become citizens because they have mixed feelings, or no feelings at all, about participating fully in this country. Illegals tend to lie low. I’d bet the majority of non-citizen immigrants won’t bother to vote if it becomes possible. After all, most citizens don’t bother to vote in local elections.
I also worry about extending the rights of citizenship — and voting is the biggie — to people who haven’t made that commitment.