Should Legal Immigrants Be Allowed to Work at Election Polls?

In my book, the majority of people who pass certain eligibility requirements and wish to serve as poll workers should be welcomed and thanked, not excluded and turned away. Working at the polls is important, often tedious and monotonous job. Election day is virtually guaranteed to be a long day for anyone serving at the polls.

There is now a bill headed to Gov. Jerry Brown that would let some legal immigrants to serve as poll workers. Which legal immigrants you may ask? Well, legal permanent residents who would be eligible to vote if they were citizens.

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Assembly Bill 817 places a limit on the number of non-citizen poll workers in each district. Election officials would be able to appoint five non-citizen poll workers in each precinct.

Democratic Assembly member Rob Bonta (Alameda) introduced the bill. He and democrats have argued that the bill would increase the number of multi-lingual poll workers who could then help multi-lingual voters who are not proficient in English. Republicans, who oppose the bill, have countered that the increase in the number of multilingual poll workers would not be particularly helpful as poll workers are prevented from doing things like reading the ballot to voters, or helping the voters understand the content of the ballot. In addition, there appears to be some disagreement as to how many eligible voters are not proficient in English because naturalized citizens must pass a written and verbal English test.

Perhaps I'm naïve, but when a group wishes to do useful and important work, in this case helping citizens exercise their fundamental right to vote, even when they themselves cannot exercise that right, we should let them, provided they pass certain eligibility requirements. Fraud at the polls is extremely rare and I do not believe this bill would do anything to change that.

About the Author

Jessica Levinson is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. She focuses on the intersection of law and government.
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