Five years ago, California Gov. Jerry Brown used these words in his veto of a bill: “Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship.”

At the time, the issue was legislation that would have allowed noncitizens who were legally in the country to serve on juries. Brown probably didn’t foresee a day when not just noncitizens, but immigrants in the country illegally would be registering to vote for school board candidates. Yet that’s what’s happening in San Francisco, thanks to an initiative voters passed in 2016 that temporarily opened the ballot box in school-board elections to all adult residents of the city who have children younger than 19.

The philosophy behind the expanded voting rights is easy to understand. Parents have a personal stake in the schools their children attend, and it’s frustrating when school leaders don’t listen to them. The power of the vote would take them one step closer to having their voices heard.

Brown’s words should prevail nonetheless. Voting is one of the great privileges of citizenship. Voting acts as a vital form of oversight for all three branches of government in California, and that check on governmental power should be reserved for those who have the formal, binding tie to the nation and each other of citizenship.

The question is: Who gets a say in the running of public agencies and governments — the users of those services or the voting public? The answer should be the latter.

Communities are built on the very idea the word implies — that we are not just an assortment of individual interests but a larger entity with a communal interest in a well-functioning society. Parents’ concerns about schools obviously count and should be taken seriously, but dating back to the early settlers, entire towns understood the importance of educating new generations and contributed collectively to provide that for all children. Noncitizens are welcome to contribute to U.S. society and to benefit from its policies and public services. But governance of those public matters belongs with the citizenry.


The right way to begin extending voting rights would be to provide a path to citizenship for those who lack one now and encourage those who have such a path to use it. The nation relies on its voting citizenry, a system that should be strengthened rather than diluted.

Editorial by the Los Angeles Times

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