Last week, San Francisco’s supervisors approved a November ballot measure that would extend limited voting rights in school board elections to illegal immigrants and other non-citizens whose children live in The City. The measure expands voting rights beyond what two previously defeated propositions would have allowed. It’s an idea that ought to be turned down by the electorate. The measure opens the door a little wider to the possibility of election fraud and lessens the value of citizenship.
The two failed attempts to give non-citizens voting rights in school elections at least required that the potential voter have a child in the public schools. The measure that passed Tuesday doesn’t require that. As long as the child — no age limit is set — lives in San Francisco, the non-citizen responsible for the child can vote. That means that illegal immigrant parents who have rejected The City’s public schools and have placed their kids in private or for-profit schools, are home schoolers or whose kids attend schools outside The City can participate in determining the future of San Francisco’s educational system.
This measure clearly gives illegal immigrants the right to vote. While it only covers school board elections, the smart money knows the proposal sets a precedent for an even bigger leap, allowing them to vote for local officials, state legislators, a governor and maybe a president.
Those non-citizen votes will likely go Democratic. The school election proposition has the support of Democratic politicians and Democratic party organizations. Both conservatives and liberals know non-citizen voters will cast ballots for Democratic candidates rather than Republicans.
While Southern California Democrats are, at present, silent on the issue of non-citizen voting, the potential number of ballots that could be cast there by non-citizens runs into the hundreds of thousands. That part of the state is already heavily Democratic. Enfranchising non-citizens would give Democrats even more senators, assemblymen and members of congress.
Progressive Democrats are at the forefront of the fight to stop deportation of otherwise law-abiding illegal entrants, to grant amnesty and to provide a pathway to citizenship for them. Voting, we are told, would speed the assimilation process. But voting also implies a knowledge and understanding of American values, customs and law. That’s why legal immigrants pass citizenship tests and endure an extensive period of residence before citizenship and voting rights are granted.
Illegal immigrants are already allowed to vote in elections to turn public schools into charters. One ominous lesson from such a vote in the San Bernardino County town of Adelanto foreshadows what may happen if illegal immigrants get voting rights. Under the parent trigger law, a majority of parents can petition to turn their school into a charter. All parents — even illegal immigrants — have the right to sign the petition. In Adelanto, the petition campaign was marked by charges that both sides confronted illegal immigrant parents with the threat that they would be reported to immigration officers if they did, or did not, sign the petition.
If San Franciscans approve the non-citizen voting plan, the assumption is the new voters could vote by mail or in person. What a wonderful opportunity for fraud as illegal immigrants are threatened with deportation unless they mark their mail-in ballots for the right candidates.
Proponents of the plan to extend voting rights to San Francisco’s non-citizens argue that it speeds assimilation into American society. Overnight integration does not occur simply because voting rights have been granted to non-citizens.
It takes more than having a kid in public school to become an American. It was for that reason that the move to let non-citizens sit on juries was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. For the same reason, San Franciscans should defeat the non-citizen voting proposal.
Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona.