Seventh Circuit rules against expanding voting rights to USVI, PR and other U.S. Territories

CHICAGO (CN) – Residents of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have no right to vote absentee in their former state of residence, the Seventh Circuit ruled Thursday, even though residents of the Northern Mariana Islands and some in American Samoa are granted that privilege.

“Absent a constitutional amendment, only residents of the 50 states have the right to vote in federal elections,” U.S. Circuit Judge Daniel Manion wrote for a three-judge panel. “The plaintiffs have no special right simply because they used to live in a state.” (Emphasis in original.)

American astronauts in space have a special procedure allowing them to vote, and American citizens living abroad can vote absentee, but 5 million residents of U.S. territories currently cannot vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of this system, finding that territory residents have no protected right to vote because the territories are “not a part” of the U.S.

But by a strange quirk, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act requires all states to allow former residents currently living in the Northern Mariana Islands to vote via absentee ballot. Illinois extends this right to former residents living in American Samoa.

However, former residents of U.S. states living in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, or Puerto Rico are not allowed to vote absentee in federal elections.

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