Isla Vista Beat Reporter
Earlier this January, the Associated Students (A.S.) Senate passed a resolution to support extending voter rights to non-citizens in Isla Vista. The voting extension would allow undocumented, permanent residents, and visa holders an opportunity to participate in local elections.
Authored by On-Campus Senator Melissa Perez and Off-Campus Senator Rafael Cornejo, the resolution seeks to provide representation to all Isla Vistans who pay property taxes to fund local government agencies, regardless of citizenship.
According to a 2017 U.S. Census Bureau estimate of Isla Vista’s population, 13 percent of residents identify as non-citizens.
With the resolution now passed, the question lies on how such an extension of voting rights can be implemented.
Currently, the Isla Vista Community Service District (IVCSD) — Isla Vista’s local government representing the unincorporated territory in Santa Barbara County — does not have the power to implement voting for non-citizen residents. State lawmakers would need to enact a law to allow IVCSD power over voting rights, according to IVCSD Board President Spencer Brandt.
Brandt stated he was unaware of the resolution at the time it was presented, but told The Bottom Line that he fully supports allowing non-citizen voting in local government.
“Inclusivity is a core value of our community,” said Brandt. “It’s hard not to see the injustice in residents who are paying taxes without representation.”
In 2016, Proposition N was passed to extend voting for non-citizens in San Francisco, allowing residents — regardless of legal status — to vote in local school board elections if they have children in the school district. San Francisco’s move to extend voting rights was cited in the A.S. resolution as precedent, however, Senators explicitly outline their support with one exception: the personal information of non-citizen voters will not be accessible to Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) or similar agencies.
The emphasis on non-third party compliance is in an effort to “not have a negative impact on a UCSB community member,” as the resolution states, a consideration that was not provided for non-citizens in San Francisco’s voting extension.
Similar state law changes are not unlikely. Some, in fact, have occurred in Isla Vista, like the formation of Isla Vista’s self-governancing Isla Vista Community Service District (IVCSD), a product of a community’s driven efforts.
In 2015, Assembly Bill 3 (AB 3) was signed by Governor Jerry Brown after dozens of Isla Vistans gathered for “42 weekly meetings” exhaustively drafting the bill, as reported by The Santa Barbara Independent, undergoing numerous revisions. The passing of AB 3 allowed residents to vote for a CSD on the November 2016 ballot.
Much like previous community efforts, Brandt is hopeful that Isla Vista’s young local government can help provide non-citizen residents a voice in the democratic process of Isla Vista.
“The Isla Vista community has changed state law before, and I believe that as the part of the right coalition of engaged residents, we could help do it again,” said Brandt.
To determine the next steps towards expanding representation for non-citizens, Senators Perez and Cornejo will be meeting with Brandt later this week.