Non-citizen from Hong Kong appointed to San Francisco Elections Commission

Kelly Wong gave her victory speech in Chinese.

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
The San Francisco Elections Commission has unanimously appointed its first ever non-citizen to the seven-member board responsible for creating and overseeing election policies in the city.

Kelly Wong, an immigrant from Hong Kong who is herself ineligible to vote in the US, was sworn in on February 14.

According to KQED, Wong is allowed to hold the position thanks to a 2020 measure approved by voters that removed citizenship requirements to serve on boards, commissions, and advisory bodies in the city. 

Following her swearing in, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin praised Wong for her "commitment to enfranchising people who rarely vote, to educating people about the voting process, and to bring in noncitizens and get them the tools they need as they become citizens."

Wong, who immigrated to the United States in 2019 as a graduate student, said she hoped to inspire those like her.

"There are always voices inside my head like 'You can't do it. You're not competent. You're an immigrant. This is not your country'," Wong told reporters. "That's not true. If I can do it, you can do it."

"I've seen how language and cultural barriers prevent immigrants with limited English proficiency from fully exercising their right to vote," Wong continued, citing the fact that there is, for example, no word for reparations in Cantonese or Mandarin. "Is there a way to do voter outreach that is not just about translation but can touch on political education while maintaining neutrality and impartiality in elections?"

As KQED reports, while the concept of non-citizens voting is alien to most of the country, in San Francisco they have been allowed to take part in school board elections so long as they have a child in the system.

Wong's appointment was celebrated by many in the city, however the decision was met with ire from some online.

"Also from Hong Kong, but I'm a citizen since 2014, I don't buy this either," one user wrote. "Kelly Wong is just a pawn for the Democrats, they're paving the way for non-citizen vote."

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