Speaking in front of the V.I. Bar Association, We the People Project founder Neil Weare outlined the case for extending the right to vote in presidential elections to residents of the territory. He also said that his organization, a non-profit group devoted to achieving voting rights for all U.S. territories, would file a lawsuit within months featuring plaintiffs from the territory who claim that their Constitutional rights have been violated by their disqualification from casting federal ballots. Semaj Johnson of the K.A. Rames, P.C. law firm will join Weare in filling the suit. “Virgin Islanders defend the Constitution and democracy abroad while being denied democracy at home,” Weare said to a crowded banquet room Friday morning at Mahogany Run Golf Course, which included Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett and District Court Judge Curtis Gomez.
Weare said climate for a suit was good, since the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 criticized the Insular Cases in a ruling on the imprisonment of an inmate at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Insular Cases were a series of Supreme Court decisions in 1901 which concluded that constitutional rights did not automatically apply to all citizens living within U.S.-controlled territories.
In the 2008 case, Boumediene V. Bush, the court ruled that denying a Guantanamo Bay prisoner habeas corpus – the right to appeal his detention before a judge – was a violation of the Constitution. “They rejected the idea that the political branches have the power to switch the Constitution on or off at will,” Weare said.