As President Trump continues to peddle his debunked theory that millions of illegal ballots in the 2016 presidential election cost him the popular vote, his commission on voter fraud is wasting federal resources to figure out just how many noncitizens voted in our federal and state elections. But amid all the falsehoods, there has actually been some positive news for some legal noncitizens: They are gaining the right to vote in some places. In November, San Francisco voters approved Proposition N, which grants the right to vote in school board elections to noncitizen parents and guardians living in the city. The noncitizen voters must be at least 18 years old and cannot be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction. The law goes into effect for the November 2018 school board election.
The theory behind expanded voting rights for noncitizens is to enfranchise people who have a direct stake in school policies. As San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu (D) — himself the son of immigrants — explained: “One out of three kids in the San Francisco unified school system has a parent who is an immigrant, who is disenfranchised and doesn’t have a voice. We’ve had legal immigrants who’ve had children go through the entire K-12 system without having a say.”
San Francisco’s expansion of voting rights follows the actions of several other cities. For years, Takoma Park has allowed noncitizens to vote in all city elections. In December, the Hyattsville City Council unanimously voted to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. This should affect about 15 percent of Hyattsville’s 18,000 residents. Some Massachusetts towns, such as Amherst and Cambridge, have passed resolutions to support noncitizen voting in local elections, though the changes cannot go into effect unless the state legislature approves them.