Democratic and Republican national conventions highlight need for voting rights in US territories
At the Democratic National Convention, when the delegate counts for the party’s next presidential nominee were read out, the DNC touted its roll call as representing “all 57 states and US territories.” Next week, the Republican National Convention will do the same. The appearance of each territory and its representatives on the television screens of millions of Americans helps educate people across the United States that residents of US territories are fully engaged US citizens just like the residents of any state. But as the delegation from the Northern Mariana Islands noted, “we are American citizens … but we don’t get to vote for President.”
“While residents of territories fully participate in the nominating conventions for both parties, they remain unable to vote for President in November, when it matters most,” said Neil Weare, President and Founder of Equally American, which advocates for equality and the right to vote in US territories. “We are seeking to change that through a new voting rights lawsuit that will highlight discrimination against residents of the territories when it comes to the right to vote.”
Building on the national attention the territories are receiving at the party conventions, as well as the recent focus on territorial voting rights in Congress, Equally American is helping develop a new federal voting rights lawsuit that seeks to expand voting rights in US territories. This new case will build from Equally American’s prior efforts in Segovia v United States, which succeeded in raising the profile of voting rights issues in the territories, even as the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ultimately did not rule in favor of plaintiffs. However, recent historic wins in United States v Vaello Madero, Pena Martinez v US Department of Health and Human Services, and Schaller v US Social Security Administration reflect an increasing openness by federal courts to take a stand for equal treatment in US territories.
The new federal lawsuit will be filed on behalf of current residents of US territories who previously were residents of Hawaii. As Equally American develops the case, it is reaching out to connect with residents of the territories who would like to be able to vote for President and are former residents of Hawaii. The focus on Hawaii is based on certain jurisdictional requirements associated with the new lawsuit. Others are also encouraged to share their stories about what it means to them to be denied the right to vote for President and voting representation in Congress.
Those who are interested in sharing their stories – especially those who are former residents of Hawaii – are encouraged to take Equally American’s Right to Vote Survey.
“The right to vote should not depend on your Zip Code or where you happen to live,” Weare added. “Please take our Right to Vote Survey to share why you want to be able to vote for President in November, not just during the party primaries.”