State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Category: Guam

Territorial Voting Rights: 7th Circuit Asked to Rule on Absentee Voting by U.S. Territory Residents

By: Stephen Fellows

In September 2017 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments for Segovia v. United States.   The Plaintiffs, a group of Illinois citizens residing in Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, want the right to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections in Illinois.  They initially brought the case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  The complaint stems from Illinois’ Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which implemented the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act (OCVRA) of 1975.  The federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) replaced the OCVRA in 1986. The UOCAVA guarantees the right to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections to Americans, both military and civilians, residing overseas.

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The Territorial American Exceptionalism to the Fundamental Right to Vote

By Ajinur Setiwaldi

Voting is one of the most fundamental rights of U.S. citizens. Congress explicitly states as much in the National Voter Registration Act. Chief Justice Warren invoked the principle when delivering the Reynolds v. Sims  opinion in 1964, stating, “undoubtedly, the right to suffrage is a fundamental matter in a free and democratic society.”

If you’re a U.S. citizen born and living in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Marina Islands, or Guam, your right to vote in federal and presidential elections is a lot less fundamental than that of citizens living on the mainland. If you’re willing to move to one of the 50 states, you can join the franchise. Even if you move to D.C., you will still have a larger say on who the next president will be than you would if you live in the territories thanks to the 23rd Amendment.

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