U.S. Supreme Court likely to weigh in on disenfranchisement of territories
As usual on controversial American national issues, the citizens of U.S. territories had absolutely no say in the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the high court, though the decisions that he and his fellow justices render will likely affect their lives for decades to come.
Neil Weare, President and founder of Equally American, a non-profit organization that advocates for equality and civil rights for the nearly 4 million Americans who live in U.S. territories, explained the significance of that action.
“The issue of disenfranchisement in U.S. territories is especially timely as the U.S. Senate considers whether to confirm President Trump’s nomination to the Supreme Court. [Kavanaugh has now been confirmed by a 50-48 vote of the Senate]. Residents of U.S. territories are the only Americans who cannot vote for President and lack any representation in the U.S. Senate, meaning they are denied any political voice in the nomination or confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice.”
Equally American and other advocates for territorial enfranchisement are arguing for the plaintiff and Guam resident Luis Segovia in a case,
Segovia v. United States, that the U.S. Supreme Court is considering for its review. Weare represents Segovia. The court was to have met privately Oct. 5 to consider the matter.
As Equally American describes it, “[The] case seeks to expand voting rights in U.S. territories. Lead plaintiff 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 he lives in Guam. Segovia and his fellow plaintiffs – a group of veterans and others living in Guam, 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. The Segovia plaintiffs are seeking review of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit dismissing their equal protection claims earlier this year.
The petition for review in Segovia has received significant support, including amicus briefs filed by Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Prof. Samuel Issacharoff and other prominent voting rights scholars, leading constitutional law scholars, and the Virgin Islands Bar Association. The Segovia petition also raises three separate “circuit splits,” making it more likely that the Supreme Court could grant review.”
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