Some Cities Want Their Noncitizen Immigrants to Vote

Caroline Winter, Bloomberg Businessweek, October 28, 2016

“Look at illegal immigrants voting all over the country,” Donald Trump recently claimed in a Fox News interview, part of his ongoing effort to cast doubt on the integrity of the presidential election. There’s no evidence to support the Republican nominee’s claims of election fraud, but some cities are moving to expand voting rights to include noncitizens.

The latest is San Francisco, where the Nov. 8 ballot will include a measure allowing the parents or legal guardians of any student in the city’s public schools to vote in school board elections. The right would be extended to those with green cards, visas, or no documentation at all. “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,” says San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu, the son of Taiwanese immigrants. “We’ve had legal immigrants who’ve had children go through the entire K-12 system without having a say.” Undocumented immigrants should also have the right, Chiu adds, to bypass the “broken immigration system in this country.”

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Today there are six jurisdictions in Maryland that let noncitizens vote in local elections. Chicago allows them to take part in elected parent advisory councils but not to vote in school board elections. Four towns in Massachusetts have moved to allow noncitizen voting and are awaiting state approval. And in New York City, where noncitizens make up 21 percent of the voting-age population, the city council is drafting legislation that would allow more than 1.3 million legal residents to take part in municipal elections. The city previously allowed noncitizens to vote in school board elections, but that ended when New York’s school boards were dissolved in 2002.

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