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Noncitizen parents are allowed to vote this November—at least for the time being

A woman holds a sign on McAllister Street in front of San Francisco Superior Courthouse before the start of Lacy V. CCSF Hearing on Thursday, July 28, 2022 in San Francisco. | Ekevara Kitpowsong

Despite a legal challenge trying to revoke their right to vote in the city’s school board elections, San Francisco’s noncitizen parents get to weigh in on the November ballot.

That’s because an appellate court on Wednesday decided to grant the city’s request to allow noncitizen voting while it fights a lawsuit challenging the practice. 

The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office applauded the decision. 

“All parents should have a say in the direction of their children’s education, regardless of citizenship,” City Attorney David Chiu said. “We have said time and time again that noncitizen voting is not only legal but beneficial to all of our communities.”

Noncitizen parents of public school children have had the option to vote in San Francisco school board elections since voters passed a charter amendment in 2016 to allow the practice. The amendment applies to people with green cards and visas as well as undocumented immigrants.

However, the legality of the voting right was challenged earlier this year by attorney and conservative author James V. Lacy, whose petition prevailed in a San Francisco Superior Court ruling that deemed the practice “unconstitutional.” The City Attorney’s Office immediately filed an appeal.

Lacy, who lives in Orange County, said it’s “unfortunate” that the appellate decision to allow noncitizen voting in the next election. But he said he’s still optimistic that he will again prevail once the appeals process plays out. 

“During this time of heightened skepticism about election integrity, the Court of Appeals grant of a stay does not help citizens to understand that their vote is properly counted and not diluted by illegal votes,” Lacy said.

Siva Raj and his son, Rishaan Siva Raj, play in Duboce Park in San Francisco, Calif. on Tuesday, August 4, 2022. Raj is one of many noncitizen parents who played a large role in the school board recall and politics of local education. | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Siva Raj, a noncitizen parent who led the recall that ousted three San Francisco school board members earlier this year on the other hand, said it’s  “amazing” news that he could vote again—at least for the time being. 

“I had registered to vote in November,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to vote for the school board members and ensure the board stays focused on student outcomes.”