Conservative Groups That Successfully Challenged San Francisco’s Noncitizen Voting Law Files Suit Against Oakland

The conservative groups that successfully challenged San Francisco’s law allowing noncitizen parents to vote in local school board elections have sued Oakland to remove a similar proposal from the city’s November ballot.

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The Oakland City Council voted 6-0 on June 21 to place a measure on the ballot that would enable the city to authorize about 13,000 noncitizen parents or guardians of school-age children to vote in elections for the city’s seven school board members. The ballot measure said noncitizens, including legal residents and undocumented immigrants, make up 14% of Oakland’s population and now lack “representation in key decisions that impact their education and their lives.”

But the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, said such a law would violate a provision of the California Constitution that declares “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”

Qualifications of voters are “an issue of statewide concern, not subject to local regulation by a charter city,” the suit said. It said the proposal also violates the rights of U.S. citizens in Oakland “by unconstitutionally diluting the impact of their votes.”

The suit was filed by James V. Lacy and two organizations he leads, the United States Justice Foundation and the California Public Policy Foundation, with an Oakland resident as an additional plaintiff.

Lacy and his groups also sued San Francisco over its ordinance, the first of its kind in California. It was approved by the city’s voters in 2016, took effect in 2018 and was extended by the Board of Supervisors in 2021. Turnout has been small, reportedly because of concerns about disclosure of information to immigration officers; election officials said a total of only 92 noncitizens voted in three school board elections between 2018 and 2020, though 328 registered and 235 voted this February, when three board members were recalled. Overall, nearly 180,000 votes were cast in the recall election.

Defending the San Francisco ordinance, the city’s lawyers argued that the state Constitution’s “may vote” language does not prohibit a local government from allowing others to vote. But Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer said the constitutional provision bars noncitizens from voting.

“Transcendent law of California, the Constitution … reserves the right to vote to a United States citizen, contrary to (the) San Francisco ordinance,” Ulmer said in a June 29 ruling that prohibited San Francisco from enforcing the ordinance or counting noncitizens’ votes in future elections.

He also cited a state law passed by the Legislature that specified “a person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen.” Such laws “address matters of statewide concern: education and voter qualifications,” and cannot be overridden by a local government, Ulmer said.

The judge has refused to put his ruling on hold while the city prepares to appeal it. City Attorney David Chiu’s office told The Chronicle it will ask a state appeals court to reinstate the ordinance.

Ulmer’s ruling prompted City Council members in Santa Ana to delay plans for a ballot measure that would allow noncitizens to vote in all local elections. The measure had been proposed for the November ballot, but according to news reports, city officials needed time to review the legal issues and try to draft a revised proposal for the 2024 ballot.

“We sense the momentum now in California is against allowing for noncitizen voting,” Lacy said in a statement announcing the Oakland suit.

And on June 27, a judge blocked a law that would allow more than 800,000 noncitizen legal residents of New York City to vote in municipal elections, saying it violates a provision of the state Constitution entitling “every citizen” to vote.

City Council member Dan Kalb, a co-author of the ballot measure, said Wednesday the suit was premature because the measure would merely authorize the council to draft an ordinance enabling noncitizens to vote, If it passes, he said, the council will wait until higher state courts rule on the constitutionality of the San Francisco ordinance before acting.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle


  1. Amazing.

    This is one of the most flagrantly UN-AMERICAN and UNCONSTITUTIONAL crap I have heard of in a long time.

    The ‘leadership’ and socialist policies of many of these CA cities is appalling.

    Their charters should be revoked.

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