San Francisco spends $310,000 to register 49 non-citizens to vote in school election

Tom Brezinski, right, votes with his service dog Suzie at his feet at the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters office Tuesday in Norwalk, Calif. The general election takes place on Nov. 6.
Tom Brezinski, right, votes with his service dog Suzie at his feet at the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters office Tuesday in Norwalk, Calif. The general election takes place on Nov. 6. The Associated Press

A controversial drive in San Francisco to register non-citizens, including undocumented immigrants, to vote in school elections signed up 49 people at an estimated cost of $310,000, or about $6,300 per voter, reported KPIX.

The city had started registering non-citizens to vote in the Nov. 6 election in July, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

The move followed passage of a 2016 ballot measure by San Francisco voters opening school elections to non-citizens who are over the age of 18, are city residents and have children under age 19, as previously reported by The Sacramento Bee.

“This is no-brainer legislation,” Hillary Ronen, a San Francisco supervisor, told the Chronicle in July. “Why would we not want our parents invested in the education of their children?”

San Francisco spent about $310,000 setting up the new registration system and informing potential voters, the Chronicle reported Sunday.

“We assumed that it would be many thousands, potentially, that could register and so far we’re at 49,” said John Arntz, director of elections, according to KPIX.

The deadline to register passed Monday, but California voters can conditionally register and vote on the same day, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The city had to set up a new registration system to handle the non-citizens, who can’t be lumped in with other voters, accounting for part of the $310,000 cost, reported KPIX.

“We had to create a separate database,” Arntz said, according to the station. “We created a separate ballot for these folks. We have separate roster pages for the polling places, we have a separate registration affidavit. We have a separate vote by mail ballot application, we have a separate website page.”

The city also distributed $100,000 to nonprofits to notify non-citizens of their new-found right to vote in San Francisco school elections, according to the station.

Chicago and some Maryland cities also allow non-citizen residents to vote in school board elections, reported KPIX.

Several cities in Massachusetts, including Cambridge, Amherst, Brookline and others, have at various times voted to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, but those moves require legislation from state lawmakers to take effect, according to The Boston Globe.

San Francisco’s move to allow non-citizens to vote, albeit only in school board elections, prompted outrage across the nation, particularly in conservative and right-wing circles, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Fear that signing up to vote could expose non-citizens to federal immigration authorities — particularly following the election of President Donald Trump — might have put a damper on registrations, reported the Chronicle.

Shamann Walton, a San Francisco Unified School District commissioner who supported the push, said that while it may have turned out to be largely symbolic this year, he still hopes it produces real change in the future, reported the Los Angeles Times.

“Trump will not always be president,” Walton said, according to the publication. “Hopefully we’ll have leaders who are inclusive and really believe that if you are a resident of this country, you should have the same rights as other people. I’m looking forward to a time when our families will have a bigger voice.”

A viral online meme popularized by George Takei, among others, encourages people who are turned away at the polls Nov. 6 to request a provisional ballot with a receipt.

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