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News Update

Non-citizen parents in Oakland could soon vote in school board elections

Oakland parents who are not U.S. citizens could get the right to vote in school board elections, if a ballot measure passes.

Measure S would give parents and guardians who have children living in Oakland the right to vote for school board directors, even if they are not U.S. citizens. Non-citizens include legal permanent residents or green-card holders, immigrants with visas to study or work in the U.S., asylum-seekers and undocumented immigrants.

The measure is currently winning, with 59% of votes. Alameda County is reporting that all ballots cast on Election Day and mail-in ballots received prior to Election Day have been counted. However, thousands of mail-in ballots have likely yet to be received and counted.

San Francisco passed a similar measure in 2016, though few non-citizens have actually cast ballots in elections since then. Earlier this year, however, a San Francisco Superior Court judge declared San Francisco’s measure unconstitutional.

Several other municipalities across the country allow noncitizens to vote in school or city elections, including Chicago, New York City and several cities in Maryland and Vermont. Before the pandemic, the Los Angeles Unified School District began considering the idea as well. To be eligible to vote in federal elections, California state elections and in most other local elections, one must be a U.S. citizen.

Advocates for non-citizen voting say it would give more parents a say in their children’s education. Many parents and guardians in Oakland Unified School District may not be U.S. citizens. More than half of Oakland Unified’s students speak a language other than English at home, but since school districts cannot track students’ or families’ immigration status by law, it is not clear how many of those students’ parents are U.S. citizens.

Opponents of such measures have said that giving non-citizens the right to vote in school board elections diminishes the voting power of U.S. citizens and goes against the Constitution, since non-citizens are prohibited from voting in federal elections.