(The Center Square) – The City of Santa Ana is considering whether or not to give non-citizens 18 or older the right to vote in municipal elections in the wake of a state court ruling finding a similar measure in San Francisco to be legal.
The official agenda item, in which the council considered “options to place the issue of noncitizen voting in city council and mayoral elections on the 2024 ballot,” would be a significant expansion past San Francisco’s measure, which expands voting to noncitizens, including undocumented immigrants, for school board elections only.
The item was requested by Santa Ana Councilmembers Benjamin Vasquez and Jonathan Hernandez, who are some of the more progressive members on the Santa Ana City Council.
“I do believe that noncitizen voting in local elections is about increasing civic engagement,” said Hernandez in an interview with KTLA. “Taxation without representation is a value that America holds dear. So we want to advance those rights. I believe that non-citizen voting is a step in the right direction.”
When a similar measure was adopted in New York City, it was struck down by the state Supreme Court.
“The California Court of Appeals ruled San Francisco had the power to expand voting rights in local elections and that rule is binding on trial courts, including the Orange County Superior Court. In particular, the court held the [California] constitution’s voter qualification provision, which provides that citizens who are 18 years of age may vote sets a floor on who may vote but does not set a limit or a ceiling,” said Julia Gomez, an American Civil Liberty Union attorney at the city council meeting. “The court also held that charter cities have authority to expand voting in local elections under the constitution’s home rule provisions including the provision that gives cities like Santa Ana authority over local elections and the manner in which municipal officers are elected.”
Immigrant advocates have seized on the measure as a right that all taxpayers deserve, regardless of their immigration or citizenship status.
“Not long ago, we had noncitizens who threw a big tea party because they were taxed without representation,” said Carlos Perea, Executive Director of the Harbor Institute for Immigrant and Economic Justice at the meeting as he declared he is an undocumented immigrant. “One out of every four citizens of Santa Ana pays taxes but does not have the representation we deserve.”
However, some local residents were still concerned that such a change would not only dilute their vote, but damage the very idea and promise of citizenship.
“Aliens who remain legally bound by and beholden to governments of their native lands should not be allowed to shape and mold our educational, law enforcement and other policies,” said local resident Mike Tardiff during the meeting’s public comment period.
Santa Ana is one of the most heavily Democratic areas in Orange County, which suggests adopting such a change would not result in a major partisan shift.