SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Senate Democrats hope to give undocumented immigrants the ability to vote in school board elections.
This proposal could require the State Board of Education to create an affidavit helping noncitizens register for school board elections. Current bill language requires potential voters to verify they are a parent, legal guardian, or caregiver of a student.
They must also live within the boundaries of a school district and intend to stay there until the next school board election.
Advocate Monica Espinoza believes all parents should have a voice in how school board leaders run their districts.
“I want the ability to be included and being able to advocate for additional language support and special education services, additional curricular options, additional staff like social workers and nurses,” Espinoza explained.
Sponsors say the affidavit would clearly explain that noncitizens cannot vote in any other elections. The document would also warn that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, may obtain their name and address.
Excluded from the process
The Senate Human Services Committee expects to host several hearings on this proposal before a vote. Sponsor Celina Villanueva (D-Chicago) says families should have the opportunity to play a bigger role in shaping their child’s future.
“For too long, these families have been systematically excluded from participating in our democracy even at the most basic level,” Villanueva said. “We it owe it to them, to our young learners, and to our cities, to bring them into the process.”
Although, the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders has concerns with the concept of this bill. They note this would allow school boards to be in the registration and affidavit process without having any experience.
“They also have to verify that and then transfer that information to us in a short period of time,” said Tom Bride, Executive Director of the Peoria County Election Commission. “There’s lots of things that go into elections that I don’t have any idea how we would even process it at this moment. How would we handle election day registration?”
Bride also noted that Illinois doesn’t have separate times for school board elections. Those take place during off-year April consolidated elections. Once again, noncitizens would only have the opportunity to vote on school board elections.
“I think that we need to understand that these individuals are taxpayers,” said Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “They’re contributing to the body that is going to actually be functioning on behalf of our schools. Therefore, when they are taxpayers and when they are contributors to our communities we sometimes do have to do separate things to ensure that they are enfranchised. But, that should not take away their rights.”
Sponsors say they are more than willing to work with stakeholders to address issues and make a stronger bill.