The attorneys behind a series of lawsuits that will seek federal election voting rights for the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam are continuing their efforts to find plaintiffs and are now developing their legal strategy, according to Neil Weare, founder of the voting rights group We the People Project. Weare would not give a specific date when his group would file the suits but said they would take place “in the next few months.” Semaj Johnson, a St. Croix attorney who is working with Weare on the cases, said that the group is taking its cues from the African-American civil rights movement, using legal action as a spark for wider social change. “With litigation, oftentimes it’s setting just a piece of precedent to move forward, and for our cause, it really is essentially about the incremental movement,” Johnson said. “We believe that it won’t only happen through the courts, most likely. It will happen through a combination of the courts, legislation, and of course public support.”
The group intends to file its first suit in federal court in Illinois and, consequently, is seeking current residents on the Virgin Islands who once lived in that state.
“We are intending on challenging some of the underlying notions that citizenship does not follow the flag and as part of that, one of the first set of suits that we’re filling is going to be in Illinois,” Johnson said.
Last month, Weare spoke in front of the Virgin Islands Bar Association with an update about the upcoming legislation. During the speech, Weare offered an outline of the essential argument of his group: that the lack of federal election voting rights in the territory was a constitutional violation.