Fight for Presidential Vote Goes to U.S. Supreme Court

The plaintiffs in Segovia v. United States filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court Monday, taking another step in a decades-long effort to gain Virgin Islanders and resident of two other U.S. territories the right to vote for president.

Virgin Islanders have been fighting decades for the right to vote for the United States president. In 2004 a St. Croix resident went on a hunger strike to bring attention to that fight. It didn’t work. Maybe a case in the Supreme Court will.

“Luis Segovia is a patriotic citizen and a proud veteran who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan – yet he cannot vote for president and lacks voting representation in Congress simply because of where he lives. Segovia, who lives in Guam, along with a group of veterans and others living in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, would be able to vote for president and have voting representation in Congress if they lived in any other U.S. territory or even a foreign country. But under federal and state overseas voting laws, former state residents have their right to vote for president and voting representation in Congress protected if they move to certain favored territories or foreign countries, but not if they move to certain disfavored territories. After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissed their equal protection claims earlier this year.”

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The release quotes Segovia, the lead plaintiff, as saying, “If I had moved to any U.S. territory except Guam, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, or even to a foreign country, I could still vote for President today. This kind of discrimination isn’t just morally wrong, it’s unconstitutional. My right to vote should not depend on my Zip code.”

 “No American should be denied voting representation in the laws they are required to follow,” said Pamela Colon, who is a plaintiff and lives in St. Croix. “The lack of democratic accountability in U.S. territories violates America’s most basic values.  This is especially true when you consider that the federal judges and federal prosecutors who enforce federal law in the territories are nominated by a president we can’t vote for and confirmed by a senate where we lack any representation.”

“The Seventh Circuit’s ruling conflicts with decisions of other federal circuits and the U.S. Supreme Court in a number of significant ways,” said Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American, a non-profit organization that advocates for equality and civil rights for the nearly four million Americans who live in U.S. territories.

Also serving as plaintiffs in Guam are Anthony Bunten, another veteran, and the Iraq, Afghanistan and Persian Gulf Veterans of the Pacific. Attorney Leevin Camacho serves as local counsel.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands, plaintiffs include besides Colon, Lavonne Wise, and the League of Women Voters for the Virgin Islands.

The Segovia plaintiffs are seeking a ruling that former state residents living in Guam, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands are able enjoy the same absentee voting rights as those living in other territories or a foreign country. A decision by the Supreme Court on whether to review the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Segovia v. United States is expected when the Supreme Court begins its new term this fall.

All case filings, including the petition, are available at http://www.equalrightsnow.org/segovia.

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