By Edmund DeMarche
Published October 29, 2018
San Francisco reportedly spent $310,000 on a new registration system aimed at getting non-citizens to cast votes in school board elections.
The program resulted in 49 new voters, which turned out to cost the city $6,326 each, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The paper called the effort “pretty much a bust the first time out.”
Local officials suggest residents who might otherwise consider registering are worried the Trump administration would learn their identities.
The voters are only able to vote in a school board race. John Arntz, the city elections chief, In San Francisco, noncitizens who opt to vote will be listed on a separate roster from citizens and will get a ballot with just the school board contest, city elections chief John Arntz said.
Robin Hvidston, the executive director of We the People Rising, group that calls for tougher immigration enforcement, told The Los Angeles Times that the program could ultimately backfire with those who take a moderate stance on immigration.
San Francisco is not the first place with such a measure. In Maryland, where an estimated 15 percent of residents are foreign-born, at least six cities allow noncitizens to vote in local elections.
In Massachusetts, the cities of Amherst, Cambridge, Newton and Brookline have advanced laws to allow noncitizen voting, but they cannot implement them because they need the approval of state lawmakers, who have not acted, said Ron Hayduk, an associate professor of political science at San Francisco State University who studies noncitizen voting laws.
The Times said the San Francisco Unified School District does not have exact numbers on how many students in its system are noncitizens. The report, citing the district’s website, said 29 percent of its 54,063 students are English-language learners.
Shamann Walton, a district commissioner in the city’s schools, told the paper that he wants families with children in these schools to have a voice.
“Trump will not always be president,” he told The Times. “Hopefully we’ll have leaders who are inclusive and really believe that if you are a resident of this country, you should have the same rights as other people. I’m looking forward to a time when our families will have a bigger voice.”