Non-citizens voting in California: Judge says no, even in left-wing state

By Zack Smith,Hans von Spakovsky

Sometimes, common sense can prevail – even in far-out California. Last week, California Superior Court Judge Richard B. Ulmer Jr. ruled that only U.S. citizens have the right to vote. In this, he echoed an earlier ruling by the New York Supreme Court.

This January, the New York City Council passed an ordinance that would have allowed 800,000 non-citizens to vote in its municipal elections. The ordinance clearly violated New York’s state constitution and its election laws. There’s no special carveout for NYC in these prohibitions. Fortunately for the citizens of the Big Apple, a New York court struck down this ill-advised ordinance in June.

On its face, the city ordinance would have applied only to “lawful permanent residents” and aliens authorized to work in the United States. But since NYC’s “sanctuary city” policies bar city officials from differentiating between legal and illegal aliens, this limitation would have been difficult to enforce, if not meaningless, in practice. 

To demonstrate just how bizarre this ordinance was, it would have allowed foreign reporters for Communist propaganda outlets like Russia’s Pravda and Red China’s People’s Daily stationed in New York City to vote in local elections.

Yet, New York City wasn’t the first large, “progressive” municipality to pioneer noncitizen voting. That dubious distinction belongs to San Francisco.

Six years ago, that city’s voters approved an ordinance that, as the San Francisco Chronicle explains, “allows noncitizens, including undocumented immigrants and legal residents, to vote for school board candidates if they are a parent or guardian of a school-aged child and are not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.” The ordinance took effect in 2018 and was slated to expire this year. But last November, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors extended the ordinance indefinitely.

Fortunately, Judge Ulmer recognized that letting noncitizens – even illegal aliens – vote was, itself, a lawless action. He noted that California’s “transcendent law” (i.e., the state constitution), “reserves the vote to a ‘United States citizen,’ contrary to [the] San Francisco ordinance …” and concluded that the city’s effort “to give the California Constitution a different meaning is unavailing.”

To prove the absurdity of the city’s position, the judge pointed out that by the ordinance’s illogic, children under 18 and residents of other states could vote in California elections, which the California Constitution clearly prohibits.

In addition to being unconstitutional, efforts to let non-citizens vote is bad policy. Aliens who remain legally bound by, and beholden to, the governments of their native lands should not be allowed to shape and mold our educational, law enforcement, and other policies potentially to the detriment of our country.

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That is especially true in the education context, where efforts to indoctrinate young children with harmful ideologies have been well documented. Lawmakers such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have put forward common-sense proposals to encourage schools to drop the indoctrination and focus instead on educating our children. These proposals have met with massive blowback and mischaracterization from activists on the left. Yet, it is in this very sensitive area of educational policy and school board elections that San Francisco specifically proposed allowing aliens to vote and shape policy.

At least for now, the rule of law has prevailed in California and New York City. Judges there have recognized that the efforts of municipal officials to allow non-citizens to vote effectively disenfranchises their own citizens and violates their respective state constitutions.

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