Noncitizens Will Soon Be Able To Vote In San Francisco — For School Board "If you allow the children to attend school, why can't a parent have the right to vote?" said one parent. Some worry the move will complicate and jeopardize the integrity of the city's elections.
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Noncitizens Will Soon Be Able To Vote In San Francisco — For School Board

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Noncitizens Will Soon Be Able To Vote In San Francisco — For School Board

Noncitizens Will Soon Be Able To Vote In San Francisco — For School Board

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

San Francisco is about to allow non-citizens to vote in local school board elections. President Trump often singles out San Francisco as a city that should not harbor people who came to this country illegally. From member station KQED, Scott Shafer reports the city's getting ready for more criticism from the federal government.

SCOTT SHAFER, BYLINE: Announcements at a recent school board meeting in San Francisco left little doubt that the district embraces diversity.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

SHAFER: More than two-thirds of K through 12 students in the city's public schools are Latino or Asian-American. At least one-third of the students have one or more parent who is an immigrant. A ballot measure in November made San Francisco the first city in California to allow non-citizens with school-age children to vote whether or not they're here legally. But they can only cast ballots in school board elections.

The idea - give immigrant parents more of a voice in how the city's public schools are run. That gets a big thumbs-up from Carmen Flores.

CARMEN FLORES: If you allow the children to attend school, why a parent can no have the right to vote? It doesn't make sense not to do it.

SHAFER: Flores is from Nicaragua and has two kids in public schools.

FLORES: Schools in San Francisco are not all good. You have to fight to get a really good public school. That's what I did for my child.

SHAFER: Once this is up and running, San Francisco will join several smaller towns in Maryland, including Takoma Park, that also allow non-citizens to vote in local elections. Now, voters in San Francisco rejected this proposal twice before, but in November it passed. And the idea of non-citizens voting does not sit well with parent Nicole Powell.

NICOLE POWELL: That's why we pay taxes. This is why we vote. These are these are things that are in place for a reason. So I personally feel like in order for you vote, I think you should be a San Francisco - you should be a citizen.

SHAFER: San Francisco approved non-citizen voting when the issue of immigration was being hotly debated nationwide. And it was widely assumed Hillary Clinton would be president when the measure would be implemented.

Now residents like David Lee are worried about the effect President Trump could have. He leads a group that encourages Chinese-Americans to get involved in politics. Lee supported this new policy but now worries that many immigrants will prefer to stay under the radar even if they're here legally.

DAVID LEE: It's really unfortunate that the national rhetoric and the Trump administration has become so hostile to immigrants that they fear to participate in this very basic American right.

SHAFER: Standing in San Francisco's Chinatown, Lee notes that while the city is nearly a third Asian, the school board currently has no Chinese-American members. He thinks encouraging non-citizens to vote could help change that.

LEE: We have a lot to gain as a community because we're getting a voice that is rarely heard from involved directly in politics.

HARMEET DHILLON: San Francisco - I've called it the utopian petri dish of California.

SHAFER: That's San Franciscan Harmeet Dhillon. She represents California on the Republican National Committee.

DHILLON: Bad ideas that survive the chemical process here tend to spread and metastasize throughout California. And I'm afraid that's what's really going on behind this.

SHAFER: Dhillon worries non-citizen voting could lead to confusion at the ballot box and increase the chances of voter fraud, intentional or unintentional. Like it or not, the city will have the new system in place for next year's November election. For NPR News, I'm Scott Shafer in San Francisco.

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