Santa Ana Council debates allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections

The Santa Ana City Council will meet Wednesday to discuss potentially allowing noncitizen residents to vote in local elections

The idea was brought forward by two councilmembers, Johnathan Hernandez and Benjamin Vasquez.

Other cities in the U.S. have already allowed noncitizen voting on the local level. In San Francisco, noncitizens are allowed to vote in school board elections. New York City also approved the move in 2022, but that law was struck down and is being debated.

Hernandez and Vasquez believe noncitizens should be allowed to have their voices heard because of their large presence and impact on the Santa Ana community.

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"When you have people buy in, and they participate, then you have a stronger community," said Vasquez. 

"Some of the largest brackets of taxpayers that we have are undocumented people," added Hernandez. "They make up a large percentage of people who own property, who own businesses, and who employ Santa Ana families." 

Santa Ana has a population of just over 308,000, including 68,000 non-U.S. citizens. An estimated 82,000 undocumented people live in Santa Ana according to the 2020 Census, which doesn't include accurate data about tax payments made by undocumented immigrants. Some residents FOX 11 spoke with said residents' taxpayer status would make a difference in their opinion.

"I'm okay with that if they are illegal but paying taxes," one person told FOX 11. "That's okay, that's fine."

"A lot of undocumented citizens do pay taxes, so I just think it's nice they could participate in local elections," another said. "Have a voice, and a feeling of what we American citizens do."

The meeting Wednesday night is only a discussion on whether to bring a formal proposal to a City Council vote. If that does happen, and the Council does approve the proposal, it would be presented to the public on the ballot, potentially in the upcoming November 2024 election.