Guam – A class action lawsuit was filed in Guam District Court Tuesday alleging that the Guam Election Commission has “illegally and unconstitutionally” refused to allow Guam voters who do not meet the definition of “native inhabitant” to register for the referendum on Guam’s future political status with the United States.
The suit alleges “discrimination in voting in violation” of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and other civil rights laws.
The lawsuit was filed here on Guam by Mun Su Park, a Korean American who practices law out of an office in Tamuning.
But the complaint was prepared by Washington D.C. attorneys Michael Roseman of the Center for Individual Rights and Christian Adams of the Election Law Center.
Adams is a former U.S. Justice Department Attorney in the Bush Administration who recently authored a book entitled “Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department.”
Their lawsuit is filed on behalf of Guam resident Dave Davis, and all other island residents, who are not eligible to register to vote in the political status plebiscite. Davis is a retired U.S. Air Force officer who has lived on Guam since 1977.
Davis took his complaint to the U.S. Justice Department first, but received no response, leading him to contact the Election Law Center and the Center for Individual Rights.
The lawsuit asks the Federal Court to stop the Election Commission from using the Decolonization Registry and rely solely on the general voter registry for Guam in determining who is eligible to vote in the plebiscite.
It is important to note that the plebiscite is not binding and would be merely an expression of preferences on the island’s political status, which the Federal Government could take into consideration, or ignore.
Senator Ben Pangelinan, whose Office has been registering eligible voters for the political status plebiscite, pointed out that the Department of Justice choose not to act on Davis’ complaint. He called on U.S. Attorney Lenny Rapadas to defend the law that permits the plebiscite and allows the Decolonization Registry to collect signatures from qualified voters.
Senator Pangelinan also argues that the plebiscite is not race based, but permits all persons, or what ever racial background, to participate in the plebiscite on political status, so long as they can trace their ancestry on Guam back to 1950.
The attorney for the Guam Election Commission, Jeff Cook, told PNC News that he has not had a chance to review the lawsuit yet and he declined comment, at this time.
Washington, DC – The Center for Individual Rights [CIR] filed suit Tuesday against Guam, the Guam Election Commission and seven named Guam officials for discrimination on the basis of race and ethnic heritage under Guamanian laws that prohibit individuals who are not “native inhabitants of Guam” from voting on a plebiscite concerning Guam’s future relationship to the United States.
As “native inhabitant” is defined by law, almost all of the individuals who are permitted to register and vote in the plebiscite are members of the Chamorro racial group. “Chamorro” is a racial designation that refers to groups of native peoples that inhabited Guam prior to the influx of people from Western Europe, the United States, and other Asian and Pacific Island countries. The term “native inhabitant” excludes most Caucasian, black, Korean, Chinese, and Filipino citizens of the United States living on Guam. Currently, the Chamorro racial designation refers to about thirty six percent of the population of Guam.
The Defendant Guam Election Commission has illegally and unconstitutionally refused to allow registered voters who do not meet the definition of “native inhabitant” to register for the plebiscite and refused non-Chamorros the opportunity to vote in this crucial election concerning the future of Guam solely on the basis of their race and ethnic origin.
CIR is representing Arnold Davis in this suit, a white non-Chamorro and long-time resident of Guam who believes that all residents of Guam who otherwise meet the requirements to vote should be provided an equal opportunity to participate in the plebiscite regardless of race or ethnic heritage.
Davis is a retired U.S. Air Force officer who has resided on Guam since 1977. He is a United States citizen, a resident of Guam, and a registered voter who has voted in the past in many Guam general elections. When he applied to register for the plebiscite, he was not permitted to do so because he does not meet the definition of “Native Inhabitant of Guam.”
In holding a “Chamorro-only” election (or any racially discriminatory election), Guam and its officials are acting in plain violation of the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1950 Organic Act of Guam, and other federal and Guamanian laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race or ethnic heritage. The suit seeks to enjoin the further illegal use of racial or ethnic restrictions on who may vote in the plebiscite.
Though Davis apprised the U.S. Department of Justice in 2009 that Guam’s discriminatory voting laws facially violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (among other statutes), the Department declined to investigate. The Department did not explain its refusal to enforce federal law in Guam, and Davis was forced to file today’s suit in order to protect his right to vote on the same terms as all other citizens of Guam, regardless of race.
Davis commented, “There’s nothing subtle or indirect or even at all ambiguous about the plebiscite law. It seeks to empower fewer than forty percent of our population to make a profoundly important political decision on a public matter that’s properly and constitutionally a right of all the people.”
Christian Adams, a former attorney in the Voting Rights Section of the Department of Justice, has agreed to serve as lead counsel in the case. Adams has participated in the successful litigation of numerous voting rights violations during his five year career at the Justice Department.
Adams commented, “all United States citizens are protected by the Voting Rights Act and the guarantees of racial fairness in the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. Nobody should be subjected to racial discrimination in voting no matter who is doing the discriminating, or why.”
CIR President Terence Pell added, “The fact that Guam’s flagrant racial discrimination continues to take place under the nose of the U.S. Department of Justice is difficult to square with the Constitution, which is very clear that all U.S. citizens are entitled to equal enforcement of the law regardless of race. That includes all the citizens of Guam too.”
The Center for Individual Rights is a non-profit public interest firm that specializes in civil rights, free speech, and other cases affecting individual rights. For more information, contact Terry Pell at 202-833-8400 x 113, or visit CIR’s web site at http://www.cir-usa.org