SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco voters will have the chance to make their city the first in California to allow non-citizens to vote in school board elections if they have children in the school system.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors (search) voted 9-2 on Tuesday to place a charter amendment on the November ballot that would allow residents who are parents or guardians of students to cast such votes.
"This is important because it further democratizes our society," said board President Matt Gonzalez. He wrote the measure partly as a response to what he termed "the post-Sept. 11, anti-immigrant sentiment that has taken hold in much of the rest of the country."
Although San Francisco has often been in the forefront on liberal social issues, the proposal to extend even limited voting rights to non-citizens already has generated opposition.
The city attorney advised supervisors that it if the measure is subjected to a legal challenge, a court would likely find it in conflict with the state constitution, which requires voters to be U.S. citizens.
One of the two supervisors who voted against the proposed amendment, Fiona Ma, described it as a misguided attempt to address school problems.
"There is no question that improving our schools should be a priority for this body," Ma said. "But expanding voting rights to non-citizens does nothing to further those ends."
Earlier this year, a coalition of community groups and immigrant organizations New York City was promoting the idea of allowing legal immigrants to vote in city elections there. Two city councilmen said they were drafting proposed legislation.