‘Allowing noncitizens to vote is not only unconstitutional in California, it clearly dilutes the promise of citizenship,” U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in 2004 when San Franciscans were considering a proposition that would have allowed parents of children in the San Francisco Unified School District to vote in Board of Education elections. It failed, but the exact same measure is on this November’s ballot as Proposition D.
Prop. D was put on the ballot by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who also was the architect of the 2004 measure — tenacity being part of his charm.
A cynic might see Prop. D as a ploy to increase voter turnout among undocumented voters who might be more inclined to vote for progressive school board members. In recent years, the Board of Education has been a farm league of sorts for progressives. It’s where people like current Supervisor Eric Mar and current candidate for supervisor Jane Kim go to acquire some name recognition before aiming for higher office.
But I’m no cynic. Chiu seems genuinely animated by some quasi-religious fervor to allow undocumented people to vote in school board elections. But, bless his heart, even if Prop. D passes (and I have a hard time believing people are more interested in noncitizen voting now than we were when times were good), it’s going to take a magician to get this past the courts.
The idea of noncitizen voting is nothing new in San Francisco. Back in 1996, then-Supervisor Mabel Teng introduced a ballot measure that would do something similar to Prop. D — allow noncitizen voting, but only in school board and community college board elections.
But when a legal opinion requested by then-City Attorney Louise Renne came out, the position of the California Supreme Court was clear: “Any initiative or ordinance enacted by either the voters or the Board of Supervisors which permitted … residents of states other than California to vote in San Francisco elections for mayor, Board of Supervisors, Board of Education, Community College Board and local initiatives would violate the Constitution.”
Teng’s measure made it to the ballot. However, in 2004, then-board President Matt Gonzalez proposed an initiative that would allow parents or guardians of school-age children to vote in school board elections.
Probably owing to the 1996 judge’s ruling on the subject, in 2004 City Attorney Dennis Herrera warned that there was a “substantial likelihood” that the noncitizen voting proposition would be struck down as unconstitutional.
It didn’t pass, so there was no final word on the legality of the proposal. If it passes this time, expect it to be tied up in the courts for a long while. A fitting introduction to the American political system if there ever was one.
Quest for America’s Cup riles one supervisor, still passes
At last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, officials had to vote on a term sheet that lists the terms under which The City is bidding for 2013’s America’s Cup regatta. It promises renovating several piers, private investment and increased revenue for city coffers. Here’s how it went down (these are not real quotes):
Chris Daly: This is very serious. Only an earthquake (literally) could stop us from changing course once we endorse this term sheet. Hey, I made a chart! It shows that we are going to lose millions under these terms. No one can answer my questions about specifics of the plan.
Michael Cohen, Office of Economic and Workforce Development: You know this is a nonbinding outline, right? Of course we need to work out the details.
(Fifty minutes of math questions later) …
David Chiu: I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I have to invoke the 10-minute rule and cut you off.
Michela Alioto-Pier: Whatever, Daly. I pray to God that Larry Ellison says yes. This could not be more perfect for San Francisco, and I hope we beat the crap out of the other contenders, Spain and Italy.
Ross Mirkarimi: Let’s not let this go by the way of the 49ers, the Olympics and the 2018 World Cup. I still can’t believe Nashville beat us out of World Cup consideration. We need answers to some fiscal questions, but there will be a lot more opportunities to mess with this project in the future. So, I support the term sheet.
Ultimately, the proposal was approved in a 10-1 vote, with Daly being the only “no” vote.