City Attorney David Chiu

City Attorney issues statement in advance of oral arguments in noncitizen voting case

San Francisco will argue noncitizen voting program is constitutional and beneficial to all communities

SAN FRANCISCO (July 26, 2023) — City Attorney David Chiu issued the following statement on the eve of oral arguments in a lawsuit before the California Court of Appeal, in which the City Attorney’s Office is defending San Francisco’s noncitizen voting program. The Court of Appeal previously stayed an unfavorable lower court order that prohibited the City’s program allowing noncitizen parents to vote in local school board elections from moving forward.

City Attorney David Chiu
City Attorney David Chiu

“Allowing noncitizen parents to vote in school board elections is not only permissible, but beneficial to our communities,” said City Attorney Chiu. “Giving all parents a voice in the direction of our schools leads to better outcomes for our students. San Francisco is not unique or alone in allowing noncitizens to participate in local elections. We believe the Court will see that this program is permissible under the California Constitution and is a valid exercise of San Francisco’s authority as a charter city.”

In 2016, San Francisco voters passed Proposition N, which created San Francisco’s noncitizen voting program allowing noncitizen parents and guardians to vote in local school board elections. Since then, San Francisco has conducted five elections under this noncitizen voting program.

Despite the program being operational for several elections, it was challenged in court after the February 15, 2022, recall election saw the highest participation yet of noncitizen voters.

In July 2022, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled that the program was unconstitutional and granted an injunction that prohibited the program from continuing. San Francisco appealed that decision to the California Court of Appeal, which issued a stay halting the unfavorable lower court ruling and allowing the program to remain intact and operational for the November 2022 school board election. The Court of Appeal will make a decision on the legality of the program after hearing oral arguments.

The California Constitution does not prohibit cities from allowing additional residents to vote in local elections, but rather explicitly allows charter cities like San Francisco to determine how school board members are elected or appointed.

For the first 150 years of our nation’s history, noncitizens were able to vote in the United States. Fourteen American cities currently allow noncitizens to vote in municipal elections, and more than forty-five countries around the world allow resident noncitizens to vote in local, regional, or national elections.

The California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division 5 will hear oral arguments on Thursday, July 27, 2023, at 10 a.m. PT. Oral arguments will be streamed remotely here. The case is James V. Lacy, et al., v. City and County of San Francisco, et al., California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Case No. A165899.