As Democratic presidential primaries approach in Guam (May 7), U.S. Virgin Islands (June 4), and Puerto Rico (June 5), and as the Republican and Democratic National Conventions draw near, voting rights advocates in U.S. territories are taking action both inside and outside the courtroom to bring an end to the disenfranchisement of the more than 4 million Americans living in U.S. territories. Yesterday, plaintiffs from Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands filed a response in the Northern District of Illinois to the federal government’s opposition to a voting rights lawsuit seeking expanded voting rights in U.S. territories. At the same time, We the People Project – a nonprofit advocacy organization that fights for voting rights in U.S. territories and the District of Columbia – is releasing a proposal for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would provide full enjoyment of the right to vote for U.S. citizens who call these areas home.
“As residents of U.S. territories prepare to vote in the upcoming primaries and caucuses, there is an important opportunity to stand up for the right to vote for President in November,” said Neil Weare, President and Founder of We the People Project. “We are fighting both inside and outside the courtroom to ensure that where you live does not affect your right to vote as a U.S. citizen.” Also serving as counsel in the voting rights lawsuit is St. Croix attorney Semaj Johnson.
Efforts to expand voting rights in U.S. territories received a boost last month from Senator Elizabeth Warren, who during a Senate Hearing called for an end to continued disenfranchisement in U.S. territories, criticizing the discrimination being challenged in the federal voting rights lawsuit as absurd.
Segovia v. Board of Election Commissioners, filed last November, raises an equal protection challenge against federal and state laws that protect the right to vote for President and voting representation in Congress for certain U.S. citizens living outside the 50 states, but not others.