• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

A new bill is flying through the California legislature that would allow non-citizens to be taxpayer-funded poll workers for state elections.

AB 817 likely will be on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk in the next couple of weeks.

Linda Paine, president of the Election Integrity Project, has a big problem with the bill.

She reasons that “taking the oath of allegiance to the United States of America in the formal naturalization process requires prospective citizens to swear allegiance to the United States of America and to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America.”

Non-citizens, she argues, “have not taken this oath, so should not be permitted to participate in the process used by U.S. citizens to elect their government representatives and manage governmental affairs.”

The state Senate passed the bill on a straight party line vote July 8. Although Republicans in the Assembly raised questions, the supermajority of Democrats easily passed the measure in May.

Proponents of the bill say it solves the problem of non-English speaking citizens who are qualified to vote but need translators to understand their ballot.

Norma Torres, D-Pomona, who presented the bill, pointed to the 2.6 million eligible voters in California who don’t speak English. She didn’t explain why the burden to help non-English speaking citizens vote should fall on the taxpayer, as opposed to the citizen trying to vote.

Ruth Weiss, education director of the Election Integrity Project, is not impressed with Torres’ reasoning.

“While we recognize that many polling places require workers who can act as interpreters,” she said, “the proponents of this bill would be hard pressed to show that there are not enough bilingual naturalized and native citizens to fill any ‘other-than-English’ language needs at the polls.”

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, sponsor of the bill, says it would allow for up to five non-citizens to serve at each polling site. The workers must be permanent U.S. residents who legally entered the country, but they need not be citizens.

Weiss is calling on all states to join Californians in demanding that Brown veto the bill. She points out that representatives elected by Californians participate in legislative decisions that affect the lives of all Americans. She sees this as a national issue.

In only a couple of days, her petition has collected more than 1,045 signatures of Californians. It also has signatures from people in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

The petition is posted at electionintegrityproject.com/petition.

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.