Plebiscite Lawsuit Pushes Forward in Federal Court


Both parties in the case filed motions for summary judgment. The AG’s Office is asking the District Court to dismiss the lawsuit. Dave Davis wants the court to rule the plebiscite law illegal.

A discrimination lawsuit filed by Arnold Dave Davis continues to move forward in the District Court of Guam, in light of the Ninth circuit court’s decision partially ruling in favor of Davis’ challenge of Guam’s political plebiscite.


Arnold Dave Davis is continuing to challenge Guam’s political plebiscite, reiterating his claims that the decolonization registry violates his constitutional rights as a voter and citizen of Guam. He filed a motion for summary judgment asking the District Court of Guam to rule Guam’s plebiscite law as illegal.

But the Attorney General’s Office is firing back with its own motion for summary judgment asking that Davis’ lawsuit be dismissed.

Although the lawsuit was first filed in 2011, the law governing Guam’s political plebiscite has been around for decades. It was created to give native inhabitants of Guam the opportunity to express their desires for Guam’s future political status with the president, Congress and the United Nations.

Only those eligible to vote can register. When 70 percent of eligible voters have registered, the plebiscite can then move forward asking voters to choose one of three political status options they would favor with the United States: independence, free association or statehood.

When Davis filed his lawsuit, he claimed that his rights were violated based on race because he is not Chamorro. Davis categorically places the plebiscite law under the Voting Rights Act and further claims that denying him the right to register is racially based as it only allows “native inhabitants of Guam and their descendants” to register in the decolonization registry.

In response, the AG’s Office says this lawsuit has nothing to do with race. On the contrary, the class of citizens who hold the right to register includes a “multi-racial, multi-ethnic group of people—namely the pre-1950 residents of Guam and their descendants.”

In addition, the AG’s Office says it is wrong for Davis to apply the Voting Rights Act to this lawsuit  because the plebiscite is non-binding–meaning it does not effectuate any kind of law, and it does not involve an election for public office or any kind of voter initiative or referendum.

“It confers no benefit or privilege, proposes or repeals no laws. It only seeks to ascertain the desires of a certain class of citizens,” court papers state. “Thus, to equate it with a vote within the meaning of the Voting Rights Act is absurd.”

Davis acknowledges the racial component of the AG’s argument, noting that what the AG is essentially asking for is for the court to declare that a longtime Guam resident such as Davis, although not a native inhabitant, is somehow “substantially less interested or affected by the possibility of Guamanian statehood or independence than a native inhabitant who has rarely set foot on Guam, but whose grandfather received US citizenship through the Organic Act.” This, Davis believes, is nonsense.

The AG’s Office, disagrees, indicating that this particular class of citizens earned the right to express by plebiscite their desires regarding their future political relationship with the US.

“This right has been too long denied,” the AG’s Office says. “Attempting to disguise such and injustice beneath the cloak of civil rights is as shameful as it is transparent.”



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