It’s election season again, a time when your voice matters, and while Americans living in the US will exercise their right to vote, Americans living on Guam and other US territories will just watch from the sidelines unable to vote.
But that could one day change. Equally American president and founder Neil Weare says the denial of voting rights in US territories is now finally under scrutiny in a hearing to be held before the US Congress Tuesday.
“The idea that in the year 2020 millions of U.S. citizens remain unable to vote simply because of where they live cannot be squared with America’s democratic and constitutional principles,” stated Weare. Equally American, which Weare heads, is a nonpartisan public interest law organization that works to advance equality and voting rights in U.S. territories.
Weare says having territorial voting rights discussed in the same conversation as voting rights for other Americans is a real breakthrough.
“What’s really significant about that in the context of this hearing is that the committee has been holding hearings across the country looking at different voting rights issues, looking at issues of voter ID laws that disenfranchised voters, looking at the issue of absentee ballots and including territorial voting rights issues among the range of issues that are important not just for the residents of Guam, but the nation as a whole,” Weare said.
The hearing is set to be a historic first because never before has the US Congress held a hearing specifically on territorial voting rights.
“I think that we are in an important historical moment in our country right now when issues of race relations and looking at historic racial oppression are things that the country as a whole is much more open to and it’s not a coincidence that 98 percent of the residents of the territories are racial minorities and looking at this through a racial justice lens. I think is a way to include Guam and the other territories as part of this national conversation that’s going on now. How do we provide equity and justice for all Americans where ever they happen to live and whatever the color of their skin happens to be,” Weare said.
He added that the hearing is an important first step as territorial voting rights are being included among other national voting rights issues. He stresses that it will be incumbent on Guam’s leaders and the leaders of other territories to take the moment and build on the momentum in order to keep these issues moving forward.
The informational hearing is being held virtually by the House Administrations Committee’s Subcommittee on Elections and will be streamed live on the House administration’s youtube page at around midnight Guam time on July 28th.