Gives noncitizens who are the parents, legal guardians or legally recognized caregivers of a child attending an Oakland public school the right to vote for candidates for Oakland Unified School District Board of Education.
What the Measure Would Do
This measure would amend the elections section of the Oakland City Charter to allow noncitizen residents who are the parents, legal guardians or legally recognized caregivers of a child residing in Oakland to vote in elections for Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Board of Education.
The measure directs the Board of Supervisors of Alameda County to take all of the measures necessary to ensure this change would be reflected throughout the voting process for all future elections. However, the measure does not require any outreach to noncitizen communities or specify how the Alameda County Board of Supervisors should institute this change.
If the measure passes, the Oakland City Charter will be amended to allow noncitizen voting in Oakland.
The term “noncitizen” includes documented immigrants, lawful permanent residents, residents on work visas and undocumented immigrants. Currently, noncitizens living in the United States are not permitted to vote in any federal elections. However, federal law allows individual localities to specify additional election law as they see fit. This has led to many jurisdictions throughout the country allowing noncitizens to vote under certain circumstances.
In particular, school board races have been the primary focus for noncitizen voting because there are many noncitizen parents who have children in public school systems. Advocates of these additional rights want to increase equity for noncitizen parents by enabling them to have a say in the school board decisions that impact their children.
Noncitizens make up 14% of Oakland’s population, and more than 13,000 noncitizen parents have students attending Oakland public schools.
San Francisco voters passed a similar measure in 2016. Proposition N, implemented in 2018, has resulted in low levels of turnout (fewer than 100 noncitizen voters per election). As written, the San Francisco Department of Elections provides notice to all noncitizen voters that the information they share when registering to vote can be shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Some attribute fear of repercussions from the federal immigration authority as the reason for low voter turnout. It is possible that Measure S would result in a similar outcome in Oakland.
There is some question about whether cities can legalize noncitizen voting under state law. At the end of July 2022, a San Francisco Superior Court judge declared San Francisco’s measure unconstitutional and contrary to California’s definition of who is eligible to vote in local elections. This leaves quite a bit of uncertainty over whether Oakland has the legal authority to enact this measure. But advocates, including San Francisco’s city attorney, argue that other interpretations of state law would permit noncitizen voting in school board elections.
This measure was placed on the ballot by Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Treva Reid. As a charter amendment, it requires a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass.
The decisions made by the board of education impact school funding and programming, which has an effect on all students and their families. By enabling noncitizens to vote in these elections, this community would have a say in their representation and ultimately in some way on the decisions that impact their children. The overall equity impacts will depend on how the county implements this change. It is unclear how well this right would be communicated to noncitizen voters or if newly eligible voters would be concerned that voting might negatively impact their immigration status.
- Noncitizen parents would be given the same rights as citizen parents and would have a say in choosing the school board that governs their children’s education in Oakland public schools.
- Increasing the number of parents who can participate in school board elections could increase overall parental involvement and investment in Oakland’s school system, creating benefits for families and schools.
- New rights might not be well communicated and would likely require some complicated administrative steps to implement, such as identifying all of the qualified noncitizen voters, adding them into the existing system to receive ballots and potentially coordinating ballots that only include the Board of Education race.
- As this summer’s court decision highlights, language in the state constitution and state election code call into question whether Oakland or any California city can legally extend voting rights to noncitizens.
Providing voting rights for noncitizen voters in local school board elections increases equity for noncitizen parents by allowing them to have a say in who makes the decisions that impact their children. Despite some of the uncertainties about the implementation of this measure, the pros of giving all OUSD parents a say in school board elections far outweigh the potential cons.
 National Conference of State Legislatures,“Voting by Nonresidents,” July 11, 2022, https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/non-resident-and-non-citizen-voting.aspx.
 City of Oakland Legislation, File #22-0470, June 21, 2022, https://cao-94612.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/RESO-89281-Non-Citizen-Vote-filed-materials_2022-07-30-033334_eazb.pdf.
 Zaidee Stavely, “Noncitizen Parents Can Vote in San Francisco School Board Recall. But Will They?” EdSource, February 4, 2022,https://edsource.org/2022/non-citizen-parents-can-vote-in-san-francisco-school-board-recall-but-will-they/666796.
 Lisa Moreno, “San Francisco Superior Court Revokes Non-Citizen Parents’ Right to Vote in School Board Elections,” San Francisco Standard, July 29, 2022, https://sfstandard.com/community/san-francisco-superior-court-revokes-non-citizen-parents-right-to-vote-in-school-board-elections/.
 The status of noncitizen voting is indeed confusing at the state level. On October 28, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that automatically registers all holders of a driver’s license as voters for all California ballots, including federal elections. Since January 2015 legislation decreed the right of a driver’s license to noncitizens, there is an apparent loophole for legal suffrage for noncitizens in California.