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Few Non-Citizens Registered To Vote For SF School Board Members

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- As Election Day quickly approaches, San Francisco is getting ready to try something new by allowing non-citizen parents to vote in the school board elections.

In 2016, San Francisco residents voted to allow non-citizens with children in the city's school system to vote for school board members.

Now that the first non-citizen election is almost here

The city has spent about $300,000 making arrangements and only 49 noncitizens have registered.

"We assumed that it would be many thousands, potentially that could register, And so far we're at 49," said

SF Director of Elections John Arntz

Arntz explained non-citizen information cannot be part of the regular voter file, so a whole new system had to be created.

"We had to create a separate database. We created a separate ballot for these folks," said Arntz. "We have separate roster pages for the polling places, we have a separate registration affidavit. We have a separate vote by mail ballot application, we have a separate website page. "

His office budgeted $160,000 for the new systems. The city gave out more than $100,000 to non-profits to do community outreach.

"So if you combine those two totals, roughly $310,000," said Arntz.

Still, non-citizens aren't registering. It may have to do with state law that says voter information is not totally private.

The Department of Elections website says "Any information you provide to the Department of Elections, including your name and address, may be obtained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other agencies, organizations and individuals."

Amy Lin is the immigrant rights program manager at Chinese for Affirmative Action, an organization that has been doing community outreach to non-citizens.

She says it's not just about the number of voters;it's about empowerment

"The idea behind putting forward non-citizen voting for immigrant parents is a way to encourage people, community members to be more involved within their neighborhood, within the school and the folks they interact with on a day to day basis," said Lin.

And while the price tag for that empowerment may be steep, she says it's worth it.

"For us, it's a long time coming. And it's a victory to all San Franciscans who are part of this community, said Lin.

Not all non-citizens can register to vote. Because voting is restricted to the SF Board of Education, only parents or legal guardians of children under 19 can sign up.

City officials say one-third of all parents whose kids are in San Francisco public schools are non-citizens.

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