School & District Management

Let Noncitizens Vote, Mayoral Hopeful Says

By Mary Ann Zehr — November 26, 2003 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A candidate in the San Francisco mayoral runoff election is calling for the city to permit noncitizens to vote in local school board elections. The proposal is unusual but not unprecedented.

Matt Gonzalez, the president of the San Francisco board of supervisors and the Green Party’s mayoral candidate, believes that noncitizens should be able to vote in elections for the school board because they pay taxes, said Ross Mirkarimi, a spokesman for the Gonzalez campaign.

The runoff is scheduled for Dec. 9. Mr. Gonzalez’s opponent is Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has not taken a position on the voting issue.

Mr. Mirkarimi said three of the seven San Francisco school board members have endorsed the proposal. The other board members have not taken a position, he added. The two largest ethnic groups in San Francisco who would benefit from the policy change would be Chinese and Hispanic residents.

David Ho, a community organizer for the Chinatown Community Development Center in San Francisco, said he personally supports the idea, though his organization hasn’t taken an official position.

Mr. Ho, who is Chinese-American, said that with two San Francisco school board members being Chinese-American, his ethnic community has adequate representation. But giving noncitizens a vote, he said, would help immigrant parents get more involved in their children’s education.

In addition, he said, such a system is one way to help immigrants to become acculturated “to a new democracy.”

Precedents Elsewhere

If Mr. Gonzalez, who is Mexican-American, is elected mayor and can persuade San Francisco voters to approve his proposal, the city would join some other U.S. communities in which noncitizens can vote for local officials.

Seven municipalities in Massachusetts and Maryland let noncitizens vote for local officials, according to Ron Hayduk, a professor of political science at Manhattan Community College in New York City, who has studied the issue.

In 1926, he said, Arkansas became the last state to change its policies so that noncitizens could no longer vote. In the late 1960s, New York City began to permit noncitizens to vote for members of community school boards if the voters had children attending city schools.

The 32 local boards were abolished by state law last year. A plan to ensure community input in lieu of the boards is being developed.(“Pact Preserves N.Y.C.'s 32 Subdistrict Offices,” June 18, 2003.)

Chicago ushered in a similar policy to permit noncitizens to vote for local school councils after they were set up in 1988, said a spokesman for the Chicago schools.

When asked why more politicians don’t advocate such a proposal, Mr. Hayduk said he thinks it’s because many don’t realize that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t preclude such a step, and that it’s up to states and municipalities to decide whether to permit it.

He added that some politicians might feel threatened by noncitizen voters, and worry “that a representative of new immigrants might take their place.”


English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion ‘This Is Not What We Signed Up For’: A Principal’s Plea for More Support
School leaders are playing the role of health-care experts, social workers, mask enforcers, and more. It’s taking a serious toll.
Kristen St. Germain
3 min read
Illustration of a professional woman walking a tightrope.
Laura Baker/Education Week and uzenzen/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Educators Must Look to History When They Advocate for Changes
Educators and policymakers must be aware of the history of ideas when making changes in education, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
School & District Management Letter to the Editor Reconsidering Causes of Principal Burnout
The state and federal governments are asking us to implement policies that often go against our beliefs, says this letter to the editor.
1 min read
Illustration of an open laptop receiving an email.
School & District Management From Our Research Center Just How Widespread Are the Threats to Educators Over COVID Policies?
An EdWeek Research Center survey asked district and school leaders if they, or anyone on their staff, had faced threats.

3 min read
Seminole County, Fla., deputies remove a parent from a school board meeting during a heated discussion about mask mandates in September.
Seminole County, Fla., deputies remove a parent from a school board meeting during a heated discussion about mask mandates in September.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP