Howard County, Maryland has claimed the authority to create a public school board seat exclusively voted on by illegal immigrants.
Howard County currently has a policy designating an eighth “student” school board seat, for which only public school students can vote. It believes the same principle would allow a seat for which only illegal immigrants can vote.
At least eight Maryland counties also have student members on their boards.
However, residents of Howard County are pushing back with a lawsuit, arguing the policy disenfranchises the general electorate, discriminates against private school students, and is therefore unconstitutional.
“It’s a zero-sum game,” said Michael Smith, the attorney representing Howard County residents. “To empower students to choose one of eight members of that board is to disempower the electorate. You have 12.5% of the voting authority of that board that’s removed from registered voters.”
The lawsuit is currently being heard in federal court.
Attorneys for Howard County residents estimate that just 27,000 students voted for the student-elected seat – a stark contrast from the approximately 100,000 voters who cast ballots for the at-large seats in 2022.
But the county argued that while students do vote for the candidate of their choice, the slate of candidates is predetermined by school officials and the board.
Additionally, the student-elected school board member has limited authorities and cannot vote on budgetary or personnel issues.
“This is just not a popular election,” argued Amy Marshak, an attorney for the defendant. “While students do vote, they do it as part of a very limited process.”
A lower court reportedly agreed with Marshak, ruling that the process does not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendments.
However, the three judges in the federal court aren’t so sure.
“Is it really an appointive process if there’s a vote being taken?” queried Trump appointee, Judge Roderick Young.
“You’ve got this additional seat that is not subject to the one-person, one-vote rule,” said Obama appointee, Chief Judge Albert Diaz. “That’s a problem.”
If the school board members were chosen by an election, it would be subject to the Fourteenth Amendment and the county would have to justify its voting restrictions, whereas appointments are not subject to the same rules.
The most shocking argument of the case was sparked by a question from Trump appointee, Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr.
“So, if Maryland decided or the school board decided that undocumented aliens aren’t adequately represented, constitutionally could a board member be selected by undocumented aliens in the town?” he asked.
Marshak said she believed it would be legal.
“I think it would not violate the one-person, one-vote principle of the Equal Protection Clause,” she said.
J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which is aiding the plaintiffs, disagrees.
“There’s no limiting principle here and it’s dangerous because it gives out favors to preferred political factions,” he told the Washington Times.