A majority of Huntington Beach City Council members want residents to consider implementing a law that requires voters to show government issued ids while officials in nearby Santa Ana want residents to consider allowing noncitizen voting in local elections.

Tonight, Santa Ana City Council Members Johnathan Hernandez and Benjamin Vazquez are calling for a discussion on allowing undocumented residents to vote in mayoral and city council elections and placing the question to voters on the November 2024 ballot.

“While all residents regardless of citizenship status contribute to the local economy and are subject to local laws, many are unable to participate in the elections of local lawmakers who shape the local policies they must abide by, including local tax policies,” reads a memo from Hernandez and Vazquez.

The Santa Ana City Council will meet tonight at city hall at 5:30 p.m. The meeting can be livestreamed in Spanish or English on the city’s YouTube channel.

Vazquez said in a Monday phone interview that Santa Ana is a city of immigrants and that the town is a leader in the State when it comes to stuff like rent control and ethnic studies graduation requirements.

“Hopefully, this spreads out,” he said. “Not everybody has always had the right to vote.”

Vazquez adds it’s also about people feeling invested in their city.

“The more buy-in we have from our residents, the better we’re going to be.”

Meanwhile, the Huntington Beach City Council Republican majority are discussing a host of city charter amendments that could affect local elections including asking residents if they want city cameras monitoring ballot boxes and requiring residents to show ID to vote.

[Read: Huntington Moves to Ask Voters If They Want Ballot Box Monitors, Voter IDs]

Last Thursday, the city council held a special meeting in which some residents heavily criticized the proposals questioning what problem the move would fix.

“As a retired veteran of the armed forces I’m appalled by the audacity to suppress votes by pushing for in person voting and monitoring of ballot drop boxes by intimidation,” wrote Resident Tamantha Bowman to the city council. 

“Voting by mail and dropping off my ballot at a drop box allows me the opportunity to exercise my right to vote without requesting unpaid time off on Election Day.”

But Mayor Tony Strickland in the past said it will help restore people’s faith in the election system.

“Our democracy only works if people believe in the results of the election. There have been questions in this county about some voter fraud,” he said at a meeting earlier this year.  “I believe voter ID helps prevent fraud.”

Vazquez compared the Voter ID proposal to “Jim Crow” laws aimed at keeping Black people from voting.

“We have to push forward against it,” he said. 

In Huntington Beach, roughly 11,875 people are not U.S. citizens out of a population of roughly 194,300 residents, according to American Community Survey estimates from 2022

In Santa Ana, roughly 68,685 people are not U.S. citizens out of a population of around 308,200 residents, according to American Community Survey estimates from 2022.

Officials in Santa Ana took up a debate in July 2022 on joining other cities across the country in allowing undocumented residents to vote with Hernandez as well as Councilmembers Thai Viet Phan and Jessie Lopez supporting the idea then.

[Read: Could Undocumented Residents Soon Vote in Santa Ana?]

Councilmembers Phil Bacerra and David Penaloza spoke out against the idea back then with Penaloza saying its a valid discussion to have but was not in support of putting the question to voters in a midterm election because of low turnout.

Bacerra and Penaloza did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Mayor Valerie Amezcua, who was not on the council in July 2022, also did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2021, the city council amended city law to allow undocumented residents to sit on city boards and commissions and Santa Ana has been a sanctuary city – a town that tries to protect undocumented residents from deportation – since 2016.

Huntington Beach officials have gone to court in the past to fight against a state sanctuary law.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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