A case pursuing the right to vote and vie for federal office for territorial residents earned a space in the V.I. Superior Court’s June docket. Superior Court Judge Adam Christian in late February ordered the case will go to court with tentative pre-trial dates in April and June. “The court will set dates for the final pre-trial conference, jury selection and trial via a separate order,” Christian wrote. Local attorney Russell Pate last year filed the initial complaint in both districts of local and federal Virgin Islands courts suing several agencies for federal voting rights. Having a court date in Superior Court marks the first formal step toward bringing a right to vote case to jury trial in the territorial courts, Pate said.
The complaint was filed in four cases, which are pending before U.S. District Judges Curtis Gomez and Wilma Lewis and V.I. Superior Court Judges Harold Willocks on St. Croix and Christian on St. Thomas. Pate’s case argues that the denial of federal voting rights, dating from the early 1900s, when the United States bought the territories, stems from segregation and Jim Crow laws of the time amid fears of the new U.S. Virgin Islands’ black majority.
In the case before Christian, St. Thomas-born plaintiff Michael Charles is suing the V.I. Elections System and Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. Abramson has said he supports any effort to equalize territorial and stateside Americans’ civic rights. Federal voting rights are long overdue in the Virgin Islands – and in all U.S. territories, where about five million potential federal voters live, Abramson said.