Earlier today Plaintiffs from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico filed their opening brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit challenging discriminatory overseas voting laws and making the case that where you live shouldn’t impact your right to vote for president. The brief comes just days after the Harvard Law Review published a special feature, “Developments in the Law: U.S. Territories,” addressing the unequal status facing the over 4 million citizens who live in the territories. “We are optimistic that the Seventh Circuit will recognize that the right to vote is ‘fundamental’ for all Americans, including those in U.S. territories,” said Neil Weare, President and Founder of We the People Project, a non-profit that advocates for equal rights and representation in U.S. territories. “We are pleased the Harvard Law Review is giving attention to how the courts and Congress have historically treated citizens in U.S. territories with a second-class status. This case represents an important opportunity for the Seventh Circuit to change that narrative.”
“Federal and state absentee voting laws arbitrarily draw lines among former state residents moving overseas, including between those who live in different Territories. This isn’t just wrong, it’s unconstitutional,” said Geoffrey Wyatt, who is leading a group of pro-bono attorneys supporting the case.
The Segovia plaintiffs are appealing a district court decision that relied on the much-maligned Insular Cases to hold for the first time that the right to vote is not a “fundamental right” in U.S. territories. In doing so, it applied the lowest level of judicial scrutiny – rational basis review – to uphold federal and state overseas voting laws that allow former state residents to continue voting for President and voting representation in Congress by absentee ballot if they live in the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or a foreign country, but not Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Puerto Rico. All case filings are available at http://www.equalrightsnow.org/segovia.
Full Article: Territorial Voting Rights Brief Filed in Seventh Circuit ‹.