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Voting Rights Denied for Former Illinois Residents Living in U.S. Territories

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

For many United States citizens, it comes as a shock to learn that fellow U.S. citizens living in the U.S. territories don't have the right to vote for the president. While Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands are all part of the United States, and the residents born there are all citizens, they simply do not get the right to vote for president under the constitution.

This lack of a constitutional right to vote was recently confirmed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Segovia v. United States. A group of citizens from Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, filed suit to be permitted to vote in their former home state of Illinois via absentee ballot. Both the district and appellate courts rejected their claim.

A Standing Ballot Problem

According to Seventh Circuit, the voting hopefuls' case suffered from a lack of standing. It explained that the injury they suffered is not derived from any federal statute, but rather from the failure of their home state's law to allow absentee ballots to individuals living in those U.S. territories.

Curiously, it was noted that Illinois will provide absentee ballots to individuals living in American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands (as well as foreign nations). And while justices at both the district and appellate level expressed concern about the seemingly arbitrary difference, it was not enough.

Shockingly, the United States Department of Justice issued a letter explaining its position that the fix to this problem would be eliminating the right to vote absentee for those citizens living in American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. But the district and appellate courts did no such thing, but rather seemed to suggest that the remedy the plaintiffs sought was legislative. The plaintiffs have not yet announced whether they will take this matter up to SCOTUS.

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