Democracy For The U.S. Colonies

Including the one on the mainland (aka ‘D.C.’). There’s an important lawsuit winding its way through court (boldface mine):

Now, a lawsuit with plaintiffs from the U.S. territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands is trying to make the case that “if they lived anywhere else in the country, they would be able to vote for U.S. President,” which is a violation of their equal protection rights, says Neil Weare. He’s the president and founder of the We the People Project, which brought the suit. He says that, if the suit succeeds, it could leave D.C. residents with firmer legal ground to get a voice in Congress.

(D.C. residents can vote for president—the District has three electoral votes—which is why no Washingtonian was a plaintiff on this case.)

The lead plaintiff, Luis Segovia, is currently a member of the Guam National Guard. He previously served in Afghanistan and provided security for the 2005 Iraqi elections, yet could not cast a ballot in the November 2016 contest. Had Segovia moved to American Samoa instead of Guam, for instance, he would have been able to vote for president, says Weare…

The rights of the government shouldn’t be based on where you live,” says Weare. “It should be guaranteed to all citizens.” That’s why the lawsuit is filed in Illinois, where Segovia was able to vote for president, before moving to a territory, where he was not.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois disagreed in late October, concluding that the plaintiffs’ equal protection rights were not violated because there is no fundamental right to vote in the territories.

“Congress specifically has authorized the states to provide more generous voting rights,” wrote Judge Joan Gottschall.

Now, We the People is mounting a $10,000 fundraising campaign through CrowdJustice for their appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court for the Seventh Circuit….

It’s a great opportunity for residents of the District to show solidarity with residents of U.S. territories who are in a similar position,” says Weare.

While the lawsuit itself wouldn’t change anything for Washingtonians, Weare says that a court decision stating that that the equal protection clause applies to voting rights “might open up another door for a resident of the District who used to live in another state to consider pursuing a similar approach, because moving to the District means you lose the ability to vote for members of the Congress.”

Weare adds that using the courts is one part of a larger strategy to get the nearly 5 million people who live in U.S. territories and D.C. full rights and representation….

The plan also includes pushing for a constitutional amendment that would provide a presidential vote for people in the territories, proportional representation in the House of Representatives, one senator for D.C. and another for all of the territories.

He notes that one big hold-up for D.C. is perceived partisanship. Because the District is seen as Democratic stronghold, Republicans are loathe to offer it more voting rights. Ohio Governor John Kasich admitted as much last year, saying he opposed D.C. statehood because “that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party.”

But Weare contends that “the territories have a history of voting in a more bipartisan fashion,” so working together “creates a political opportunity that hasn’t existed for the District in the past.”

You can help fund the lawsuit here.

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