“Residents of U.S. Territories Ask Court to Expand Voting Rights”

Courthouse News Service:

U.S. Circuit Judge David Hamilton asked whether the differences in absentee voting rights between the territories could be due to their unique political histories.

After all, “there are unique, one-of-a-kind, custom deals with each territory,” Hamilton said.

But Wyatt said there is “no relationship between the Marianas’ unique history and allowing people to vote there.”

“Illinois residents are being treated differently just based on where they moved to,” Wyatt continued.

Carleen M. Zubrzycki, representing the federal government, said that “moving to Puerto Rico is the same as moving to D.C. You give up your right to vote for federal office.”

But when U.S. Circuit Judge Illana Rovner questioned why a former Illinois resident who moved to France may vote absentee, but not if they moved to Guam, Zubrzycki struggled to respond.

She said that Congress might have been concerned about the political conflict that might arise from allowing mainlanders living in the territories to vote absentee, but prohibiting lifelong residents from voting.

Hamilton acknowledged this problem, saying, “Short of a grant of voting right to all residents of the territories – which would be extraordinary – it seems we have to live with some form of discrimination.”

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