The Los Angeles Unified School District has begun researching a potential ballot measure that would allow for non-citizens residing in the district to vote in school board elections.
Board member Kelly Gonez originally introduced the resolution in July that would authorize research into a ballot measure for the 2020 election to extend voting rights to parents, guardians, grandparents, or caregivers of children in the district. Earlier this month, the board voted 6-0 to pass the resolution.
They “pay local and federal taxes. They own property. They operate businesses. They volunteer in schools and contribute in countless ways to our communities, yet they currently can’t choose their voice on the school board,” said Gonez, according to LAist.
Immigrants’ rights groups lauded the decision, arguing that it could allow thousands of parents who currently don’t have the right to vote to have a stake in the district that their children go to school.
Last year, San Francisco became the first city in California, and among only a small number of municipalities in the nation, to allow non-citizens to vote in local school board elections. The city spent $300,000 to register non-citizens, although only a few dozen people signed up. Some speculated this was due to the fact that California law makes voter information public.
Also in 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 1071, which “[r]ecognizes that allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise, and diminishes the voting power, of U.S. citizens,” according to the text of the bill.
“In this country, the right to vote is reserved exclusively for United States citizens,” Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) tweeted after the vote. “Allowing those who are here illegally the right to vote in American elections would be nothing short of an affront to the very principles upon which our nation was built.”
In Southern California, 42 percent of children have at least one immigrant non-citizen parent, the LAUSD resolution read.
Board member George McKenna was the sole abstention in the LAUSD vote. While supportive of expanding voting rights to non-citizens, he expressed his concern that LAUSD wouldn’t be able to protect their privacy if federal authorities requested that information.
Mariana Magana, policy advocate for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, also supported the idea of allowing non-citizens to vote, but told EdSource the privacy of immigrant parents is a serious issue.
“That’s always a concern of ours, I think, be it with this situation or with any information that our community members give to any government entity. Our primary concern is what are the legal protections behind it, so that ICE does not have access to it,” Magana said.
Other members of the board that voted in favor of the resolution did not share the same concerns as McKenna and claimed it was urgent the resolution be passed.
“I have undocumented family members,” Gonez said at the board meeting, reported LAist. “I would never do anything that would put them at harm’s risk and the implication that might not be true is deeply offensive.”
Board member Monica Garcia was of the opinion that the board should move forward “even if we are unable to offer people protection.” She further added that federal authorities had means other than voting records to access non-citizens’ information.
The research group will now be held responsible for determining how to register non-citizens without disclosing their addresses to federal immigration agencies, like ICE. The research group is expected to finish their findings in six months’ time.
The resolution falls short of actually allowing non-citizens to vote and is a preliminary step, as the process of approval could take years. It would require the city council of Los Angeles, not the school board, to put forward the necessary ballot measure that would allow for non-citizens to vote.