A legal battle to gain equal voting rights for residents of the U.S. territories was dealt a setback after a federal judge in Illinois this week ruled that former Illinois residents who live in the territories, including Guam, do not have the right to cast absentee ballots in Illinois. Six U.S. citizens, who all are former Illinois residents now living in Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, jointly filed a lawsuit in Illinois’ northern district court last November with the nonprofit groups Iraq, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Veterans of the Pacific and the League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands. Under the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and Illinois’ Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment law, former Illinois residents have the right to vote for president and Illinois’ Congressional representation, provided that they live in the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa or a foreign country. The group argued that the statutes allowing them to vote in particular areas but not certain U.S. territories are a violation of their equal protection rights, according to court documents.
The two Guam plaintiffs in the case are Luis Segovia, who is in the Guam National Guard, and Anthony Bunten, a Navy veteran and Piti resident who moved to Guam in 1997. They cannot receive absentee ballots, the federal voting law states, because the territories are not outside the United States.
District Court Judge Joan B. Gottschall on Aug. 23 ruled for the federal government in the case, stating it is not the court’s role to weigh in on the wisdom or fairness of the federal voting act.
According to Gottschall, federal laws are considered to be constitutionally valid and cannot be examined further by the court unless they possibly violate a fundamental right.
Full Article: Guam residents lose voting rights case.