GovGuam has finally, after eight long years of fruitless and expensive – nearly $1 million dollars and counting – litigation, lost its misguided fight to establish bloodline as a legitimate voter qualification in a unanimous decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Make no mistake – this really is the end of the line for this issue. Any hope for a U.S. Supreme Court reprieve is fantasy. That was resolved in the 1999 Rice v. Cayetano decision that reversed a 9th Circuit Court ruling on a similar issue.
Sometimes the most difficult things in life are the most rewarding. This landmark exercise and decision, though difficult for all concerned, casts a whole new light on the Guam decolonization quest. It means that any government-sponsored plebiscite must be open to all otherwise qualified resident citizens without ethnic, political or other constraints. Numbers-wise, it enfranchises some (tens of thousands of) residents previously barred from voting. It means that Guam Public Law 25-106 and similar racially discriminatory legislation must be repealed or radically amended. It also foreshadows significant revisions to current "voter education" programs and proposals, with careful attention to how the federal grant money is spent.
The new rules give us an opportunity not to be wasted – an opportunity to re-evaluate where we wish to go and how we choose to get there. Lawmakers should address that question with open minds and a sincere wish to provide access to the best possible options for the benefit of Guam's future generations, regardless of ethnicity or ancestry.
More than 20 years ago the people of Guam selected a Commonwealth relationship with the United States as the preferred political status option. Unfortunately, radical political pressures and arrogance created a no-win confrontation when Guam's leaders presented the U.S. Congress with non-negotiable demands. Those demands were promptly and predictably rejected by both the U.S. Congress and Administration, setting the stage for 20-plus years of racially discriminatory political paralysis.
That's now over. Visionary politicians should launch a new era of the right kind of political status education and public preference inquiry. Find out what the people really want. Ask this simple question of Guam voters – all of them – "Do you prefer separation from the United States or a continuing close relationship?" Public response will provide the framework for the next step – perhaps a true plebiscite with an expanded range of status options. Otherwise, Guam is destined to wallow forever in the political uncertainty and divisive undercurrents we've experienced for more than two decades.
Dave Davis, of Yigo, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging Guam's plebiscite law that restricted voting to native inhabitants of Guam.