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Judge Strikes Down San Francisco Law Allowing Non-Citizens To Vote

In a ruling released on Friday, a judge struck down a San Francisco city ordinance allowing non-citizens to vote in school board elections.

The ordinance, which allowed non-citizen parents of school-aged children to vote in school board elections, was approved in 2016 and took effect in 2018, and was extended indefinitely in 2021. The law was challenged by various groups, including the California Public Policy Foundation and the United States Justice Foundation.

“The State of California has a long-standing requirement that voters must be United States citizens,” the plaintiffs argued. “This requirement applies to every election in the state, even those conducted by charter cities, because determining voter qualifications is a matter of statewide concern where state law supersedes conflicting charter city ordinances.”

The court agreed.

“Transcendent law of California, the Constitution … reserves the right to vote to a United States citizen, contrary to (the) San Francisco ordinance,” San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer said in a ruling that will prohibit the city from counting non-citizen votes.

The lawsuit also argued that because the San Francisco Unified School District receives money from state taxpayers, the entire state has an interest in the qualifications of its voters, and the city does not have unlimited autonomy to redefine who is eligible to vote.

A similar law in New York City, which would have allowed up to 800,000 non-citizens to vote in city elections, was struck down in June.

San Francisco has not indicated whether or not it plans to appeal the case.

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