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Conservative groups sue Oakland to block ballot measure allowing non-citizens to vote in school elections

Conservative groups that successfully challenged San Francisco’s law allowing noncitizen parents to vote in local school board elections have sued Oakland to remove a similar proposal from the city’s November ballot, The San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.

The Oakland City Council voted 6-0 on June 21 to place a measure on the ballot that would enable the city to authorize about 13,000 noncitizen parents or guardians of school-age children to vote in elections for the city’s seven school board members.

The Oakland ballot measure said noncitizens, including legal residents and undocumented immigrants, make up 14% of Oakland’s population and now lack “representation in key decisions that impact their education and their lives.”

But the new lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, said such a law would violate a provision of the California Constitution that declares,  “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”

The suit was filed in state Superior Court by James V. Lacy and two organizations he leads, the United States Justice Foundation and the California Public Policy Foundation, with an Oakland resident as an additional plaintiff, the newspaper reported.

Lacey won a victory with a similar suit in San Francisco earlier this month that overturned a voter-approved measure to let non-citizens vote in school board races there.

Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer ruled the state constitution bars noncitizens from voting.

“Transcendent law of California, the Constitution … reserves the right to vote to a United States citizen, contrary to (the) San Francisco ordinance,” Ulmer said in a June 29 ruling that prohibited San Francisco from enforcing the ordinance or counting noncitizens’ votes in future elections.

The judge also cited a state law passed by the Legislature that specified “a person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen.” Such laws “address matters of statewide concern: education and voter qualifications,” and cannot be overridden by a local government, Ulmer said.

Oakland City Council member Dan Kalb, a co-author of the ballot measure, told the Chronicle on Wednesday the new suit was premature because the measure would merely authorize the council to draft an ordinance enabling noncitizens to vote, If it passes, he said, the council will wait until higher state courts rule on the constitutionality of the San Francisco ordinance before acting.