Appeals Court Reallows Noncitizens to Vote in San Francisco School Board Elections

A California appeals court ruling will effectively allow non-US citizens to vote in San Francisco school board elections in November, despite a court ruling earlier this year that struck down the local law as unconstitutional.

California Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer overturned the city’s ordinance allowing noncitizens to vote on July 29. However, the First District Court of Appeals in August granted a city request to stay the decision.

The appeals court then denied a Sept. 9 request to expedite Ulmer’s ruling against San Francisco’s noncitizen voting law in time for the general election.

“The constitutional challenges … are significant and deserve careful consideration,” according to the appeals court ruling. However, the court “refuses[s] order an injunction. No extension of time will be granted in the absence of exceptional justification.

That means noncitizens can vote in the Nov. 8 election, according to James V. Lacy, an attorney who filed a lawsuit against San Francisco’s ordinance on behalf of conservative groups in March 2022.

Lacy told The Epoch Times that the procedural delay would harm the integrity of the election and allow the counting of votes that a judge has already ruled illegal.

“It darkens the election,” he said Sept. 13. the San Francisco election.

San Francisco voters approved the ordinance that appeared as Proposition N on the 2016 ballot, and the law was set to expire Dec. 31, 2022, until the city extended it indefinitely last year. Since it came into force, non-citizens have been allowed to vote in at least four local elections, according to court documents.

According assistant city attorneysnon-citizens can only vote in school board elections and do not have the ability to vote for any other office.

The idea behind it was to give non-citizen parents a say in school board elections, but “the problem is that it’s illegal,” Lacy said. California Insider host Siyamak Khorrami on an August 24 episode. “It is alarming that this ballot initiative even passed.”

Lacy argues that voting is a fundamental right of only citizens and a cornerstone of democracy that should not be “tinkered with”.

The California Constitution makes it clear that only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote in state and local elections, Lacy told California Insider at the time.

According to the constitution, “A United States citizen who is 18 years of age and resident in this state may vote.” However, city attorneys argued that the wording “may vote” does not prohibit a local government from allowing others to vote.

In his July 29 decision, Judge Ulmer said that based on the same flawed logic, the city could argue that “children under 18 and residents of other states” can also “vote in elections.” Californians, which our Constitution does not allow”.

He said the constitution uses the words “may vote” for a good reason.

“If he had used the mandatory word ‘must’ instead…resident citizens of full age would be legally required to vote. Election laws in many countries make voting mandatory, but not in the United States,” Ulmer said.

Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote, a national election integrity monitoring group, denounced the appeals court’s decision to deny the expedition request.

“Name any other country in the world that would allow non-citizens to vote in their country’s elections. There isn’t,” Engelbrecht told The Epoch Times on Sept. 13.

“To suggest that non-citizen voting will only take place in local elections is like saying that ballot boxes will only be used during pandemics. These efforts never remain limited or temporary,” she said via text message.


Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.

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