Chinese Immigrant Joins San Francisco Election Commission

Four years after removing the requirement for election commission members to be American citizens, the city of San Francisco has appointed its first noncitizen to the position.

Kelly Wong, the California city’s newest member of the election commission, is an immigrant from Hong Kong. A local news outlet described her as “an immigrant rights advocate” and noted that Wong is likely the first non-American citizen to be appointed to the seven-person commission.

The new city official was sworn in during a ceremony on February 14, which took place at City Hall in San Francisco. Supervisors President Aaron Peskin presided over the ceremony, which was attended by many supporters.

The city of San Francisco became the first major city in the United States to allow noncitizens a chance to serve on city commissions and advisory boards. This measure was passed by Bay City voters in 2020, opening the door for immigrants to become members of the election commission.

Each of the seven members of this board must be appointed by separate city officials such as the district attorney or the mayor. In Wong’s case, her appointment was unanimously supported by the entire Board of Supervisors.

The new member told reporters after the ceremony that she hopes her appointment to the commission serves as an inspiration to fellow immigrants, telling them, “If I can do it, you can do it.”

But Wong’s position has faced considerable scrutiny from conservative citizens who disagree with putting immigrant, noncitizens in oversight positions of local American voting. A video clip of an interview Wong gave after her appointment has been the center of much conversation among concerned citizens and media outlets that are keeping the clip in circulation.

The Post Millennial news organization shared the clip—lasting one minute and nine seconds—on X, emphasizing that Wong is “ineligible to vote in the US” due to her non-citizenship. Her post-appointment speech to reporters was spoken in Chinese instead of English.

Conservative commentator Tim Pool also joined the ongoing discussion of allowing noncitizens to serve as appointed officials, pointing out that Wong moved to America in 2019 and landed a position as a member of the San Francisco election commission just five years later. The precedent of allowing non-Americans to run local American systems is described as “a constitutional crisis” by Pool, who argued that only United States citizens should have the “privilege” and “responsibility” to “run this system.”