A voter casts his ballot in Staten Island, N.Y. (Keith Bedford/Reuters)

Joshua A. Douglas is a law professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law who specializes in election law and voting rights. He is the co-editor of “Election Law Stories.

As President Trump continues to peddle his debunked theory that millions of illegal ballots in the 2016 presidential election cost him the popular vote, his commission on voter fraud is wasting federal resources to figure out just how many noncitizens voted in our federal and state elections.

But amid all the falsehoods, there has actually been some positive news for some legal noncitizens: They are gaining the right to vote in some places.

In November, San Francisco voters approved Proposition N, which grants the right to vote in school board elections to noncitizen parents and guardians living in the city. The noncitizen voters must be at least 18 years old and cannot be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction. The law goes into effect for the November 2018 school board election.

The theory behind expanded voting rights for noncitizens is to enfranchise people who have a direct stake in school policies. As San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu (D) — himself the son of immigrants — explained: “One out of three kids in the San Francisco unified school system has a parent who is an immigrant, who is disenfranchised and doesn’t have a voice. We’ve had legal immigrants who’ve had children go through the entire K-12 system without having a say.”

San Francisco’s expansion of voting rights follows the actions of several other cities. For years, Takoma Park has allowed noncitizens to vote in all city elections. In December, the Hyattsville City Council unanimously voted to allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. This should affect about 15 percent of Hyattsville’s 18,000 residents. Some Massachusetts towns, such as Amherst and Cambridge, have passed resolutions to support noncitizen voting in local elections, though the changes cannot go into effect unless the state legislature approves them.

In fact, noncitizen voting has a storied history in the United States. From the nation’s founding until the 1920s, many states allowed noncitizens to vote in all elections. States amended their laws in the aftermath of World War I to take away voting rights, yet noncitizens still could participate in various city and school board elections in many areas. For example, noncitizens could vote in New York City school board elections until 2002, when the city dissolved the elected school board. For the past few years, New York City has debated whether to enfranchise the city’s 1.3 million legal noncitizens for all city elections.

Local laws and policies affect noncitizens every day. Efforts to give legal noncitizens voting rights are significant because they help provide a voice to those with a vested stake in their communities, as well as a sense of belonging. Allowing noncitizens to vote in local elections could actually increase the likelihood that they seek full citizenship. Meanwhile, federal law prohibits noncitizens from voting in federal elections, so granting voting rights for only local elections will not deter them from seeking their citizenship and the full rights it entails.

Beyond the effects on a few cities and towns, the expansion of noncitizen voting also tells a broader story of voting rights, and it’s not all doom and gloom. There have always been various measures to restrict voting rights, but advocates are also seeking ways to expand the electorate. Local expansions of voting rights are key to those reforms.

Of course, the mere fact that some places are extending the right to vote to previously disenfranchised groups does not mean that all cities and towns must do so or that the prohibition on noncitizens voting in federal elections is necessarily wrong. This is a question for each community to make for itself. The point instead is that noncitizen voting in local elections is not radical or far-fetched. And it helps them feel like part of their communities.

The story of expanded voting rights for noncitizens provides an important counterweight to the current anti-immigrant sentiment and voter suppression measures sweeping across the country. It shows that there are communities that are actively seeking to expand democracy. That activity should grow.

Legal noncitizens have been part of the American fabric since its beginning. That reality continues, even in the face of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration. Giving legal noncitizens voting rights in local elections presents a small path forward to recognize and expand the melting pot that makes America great.