Right of Non-Citizens to Vote in San Francisco School Board elections, Proposition D (November 2010)

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A Right of Non-Citizens to Vote in San Francisco School Board elections, Proposition D ballot proposition was on the November 2, 2010 ballot for voters in San Francisco.[1] It was defeated.

If it had been approved, Proposition D would have allowed parents and legal guardians of students in the San Francisco Unified School District to cast ballots in school board elections, regardless of their immigration status.

Specifically, Proposition D would have allowed any non-citizen resident of San Francisco to vote for members of the Board of Education if the resident:

  • Was the parent, legal guardian or legally-recognized caregiver for a child living in the School District, and
  • Was 18 years of age or older and not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

The provisions of Proposition D would have lasted for 3 voting years: the November 2012, 2014, and 2016 elections for members of the San Francisco Board of Education. After the 2016 election, Proposition D would have expired unless the Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance allowing it to continue.

It was estimated that the cost of administering an election involving non-citizens would be about $150,000. John Arntz, the director of the city's election department, had originally estimated that the cost would be $800,000. However, the $800,000 estimate was the estimate for holding the school board election on a day separate from the city's general election. The $150,000 estimate is how much it would cost to administer non-resident voting, if the non-resident voting takes place on a regular election day.[1]

Election results

  • Yes: 118,608 (45.09%)
  • No: 144,418 (54.91%) Defeatedd

Election results are from the San Francisco elections division as of November 26, 2010.


Arguments in the San Francisco Voter Pamphlet in favor of Proposition D, and the rebuttal to the arguments made by its opponents, were signed by:

  • David Chiu
  • Michela Alioto-Pier
  • David Campos
  • Chris Daly
  • Bevan Dufty
  • Eric Mar
  • Sophie Maxwell
  • Ross Mirkarimi
  • San Francisco Democratic Party
  • San Francisco League of Young Voters

As reasons for voting in favor of Proposition D, they said:

  • "It is estimated that at least 1 of out 3 children in San Francisco public schools has an immigrant parent."
  • "All parents, regardless of citizenship, will have the opportunity to become an integral part of their child’s education and future through the electoral process."
  • "It is essential that we expand parental involvement in our schools since greater parental participation is a key element in improving schools, particularly low-performing schools."

They also said:

  • "For the first 150 years of our nation’s history - from 1776 until 1926 - 22 states and territories allowed immigrants to vote and even hold office."
  • "Over the last three decades, cities and towns in Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York have passed laws allowing immigrants to vote."


Arguments in the San Francisco Voter Pamphlet opposed to Proposition D, and the rebuttal to the arguments made by its supporters, were signed by:

  • Dr. Terence Faulkner, J.D., County Central Committeeman
  • Arlo Hale Smith, Past BART Board President
  • Doo Sup Park, State Senate Nominee

The arguments included:

  • "What Proposition D backers call “Immigrant Voting” does not mean just legal immigrants. Proposition D also proposes that illegal aliens and even those in the process of being deported from the United States be allowed to vote for San Francisco’s Board of Education. All that is required is that the alien voter be the parent (or the caregiver) of a child enrolled in a public or private school within the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) boundaries and a de facto resident (legal or illegal) of the City."

Legal aspects

According to Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who voted against putting Prop D on the ballot, ""We got advice from [City Attorney Dennis Herrera] that this will end up in court and that it's more likely than not that we will lose. It's not a terrible policy, but I'm not interested in passing something only to have to spend the money to lose in court."[2]

Herrera declined to discuss his 2010 advice to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors with a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, citing attorney-client privilege. In 2004, Herrera wrote a memo about the "nearly identical" Proposition F saying that "There is a substantial likelihood that a court would conclude that the amendment conflicts with the California Constitution and is therefore invalid."[2]

Board of Supervisors President Chiu, a lead supporter of 2010's Proposition D and the architect also of 2004's Proposition F, disagrees, saying, "This is an area of law where there has been a lot of study in recent years. There are a number of points that strongly suggest (Prop. D) is absolutely constitutional."[2]

In 2004, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said, "Allowing noncitizens to vote is not only unconstitutional in California, it clearly dilutes the promise of citizenship.[3]

A legal memo written in 1996 by Louise Renne, who was at the time San Francisco's city attorney, quoted the California Supreme Court saying, "Any initiative or ordinance enacted by either the voters or the Board of Supervisors which permitted ... residents of states other than California to vote in San Francisco elections for mayor, Board of Supervisors, Board of Education, Community College Board and local initiatives would violate the Constitution."[3]

Proposition F in 2004

A similar measure, Proposition F, was on the November 2, 2004 ballot in San Francisco, where it was narrowly (51-49%) defeated.

The ballot question in 2004 was, "May San Francisco residents who are 18 or older vote in School Board elections, whether or not the resident is a United States citizen, if the resident is a parent, guardian or care-giver of a child in the School District?"

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Proposition D: Shall the City allow non-citizen residents of San Francisco who are 18 years of age or older and have children living in the San Francisco Unified School District to vote for members of the Board of Education?[4]

Path to the ballot

On July 20, 2010, the Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 on July 20, 2010 to place Proposition D on the ballot.

  • Voting in favor of putting Proposition D on the ballot: Supervisors Alioto-Pier, Avalos, Campos, Chiu, Daly, Dufty, Mar, Maxwell and Mirkarimi.
  • Voting against: Supervisors Chu and Elsbernd.

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