Guam argues for native voting law before 9th Circuit

by Oct 29, 2018Bocaítos0 comments

The United States territory of Guam is defending a law that limits voting on the territory’s political relationship with the US to native inhabitants and their descendants. Arnold Davis, now represented by the Election Law Center and the Center for Individual Rights, filed a lawsuit, “arguing that the plebiscite election discriminated against him and other non-native inhabitants residing on the island who were ineligible to participate.”

The Guam Legislature created the Political Status Plebiscite as a mechanism for returning to the native inhabitants the ability to determine the future political status of the unincorporated U.S. territory located in the Mariana Islands.

Once 70 percent of native inhabitants signed onto the registry, a plebiscite political status election would be held to decide whether Guam should become a free association of the U.S., a state, or an independent nation.

While the indigenous people of Guam are known as Chamorro, Guam law defined the eligible plebiscite electorate as “native inhabitants” who were made U.S. citizens by the 1950 Organic Act and their descendants.

Guam District Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ruled in favor of Davis in March 2017, writing in her 26-page opinion, “the court recognizes the long history of colonization of this island and its people, and the desire of those colonized to have their right to self-determination. However, the court must also recognize the right of others who have made Guam their home.”

Guam Special Assistant Attorney General Julian Aguon countered Wednesday, “it would be impossible for a colonized people under U.S. rule to exercise any measure of self-determination because the mere act of designating them, designating who constitutes as a colonized class would collapse automatically into a racial categorization.”

“The purpose of the law is to identify the group entitled to decolonization rights,” Aguon implored in a speech so impassioned it drew commentary from the panel.

The case could have potential repercussion on the other territories, in particular American Samoa, which has a strong interest in preserving laws that give native inhabitants certain rights.