A San Francisco judge has just struck down the city’s experiment of allowing non-U.S. citizens to vote in school board elections.
The practice, which was first put in place in 2016 following the passage of a charter amendment, allowed certain non-citizens the right to vote in school board elections. It also provided the county board of supervisors the authority to extend the authorization beyond 2022.
On November 2, 2021, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors extended the ordinance indefinitely.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer found that the practice violated California’s state constitution and struck down the ordinance.
The case was brought before the court in March 2022 when California Attorney James Lacy sued the city and the county of San Francisco over the law. He argued that residents of the city have a clear interest in ensuring that school board elections follow state law, particularly because state taxpayers partially fund the school districts.
“When noncitizens vote in an election, the voting rights of citizens are wrongly diluted,” Lacy said to the California Globe.
“The State of California has a long-standing requirement that voters must be United States citizens,” read the lawsuit by James V. Lacy; Michael Denny; United States Justice Foundation; and California Public Policy Foundation.
“This requirement applies to every election in the state, even those conducted by charter cities, because determining voter qualifications is a matter of statewide concern where state law supersedes conflicting charter city ordinances. Therefore, the San Francisco ordinance authorizing noncitizen voting in elections for the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is unlawful and may not be implemented,” the lawsuit argued.
Judge Ulmer agreed with the argument, stating that the ordinance “is contrary to the California Constitution and state statutes and cannot stand,” and overturned the ordinance, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.