Gov. Eddie Calvo on Friday further explained his proposal for a two-ballot system for a political status plebiscite, which the governor wants to take place next year.
“As far as I'm concerned, I'd like to see a plebiscite occur in 2018 – there are too many of our manåmko' that are dying every day that have never had that opportunity,” according to the governor, to decide on Guam’s political status.
One ballot will be for native residents of Guam, and the other ballot would be for island residents who aren’t indigenous residents of the island, but are U.S. citizens and eligible to vote, the governor proposed.
“Having two ballots would accomplish both objectives of giving a vote to the native inhabitants - a people marginalized for hundreds of years - and a vote to those who have lived on Guam for years, who consider Guam their home and who are eligible to vote,” the governor said.
Unconstitutional and race-based
The separate ballots for natives and non-natives is part of the governor’s response to U.S. District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood’s ruling on Wednesday.
The federal judge struck down Guam’s plebiscite law as unconstitutional and race-based, because it would restrict voting to those considered native residents of the island.
The judge barred the Guam Election Commission and GovGuam officials from holding a plebiscite that does not allow all eligible voters the chance to vote. Tydingco-Gatewood’s decision followed a 9th Circuit Appeals Court decision almost two years ago. In that appeals court ruling, the court determined that Arnold “Dave” Davis, an Air Force veteran and resident of Guam for decades, who isn’t a native Guam resident, has standing to sue. The appeals court further instructed the federal judge to decide on the merits of Davis’ claim of racial bias.
The plebiscite would give voters the option to choose from among three options: independence, statehood and free-association with the United States.
'A political statement ... which cannot effect actual change'
The U.S. Congress ultimately decides on Guam’s political status change, but the outcome of a plebiscite would express Guam’s wish.
“Only Congress can make a change to Guam’s political status,” said Guam’s elected Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson. “We were hoping … that the court would recognize that a plebiscite vote does not fundamentally make change. It is a political statement, a hope, and a desire, which cannot effect actual change.”
The attorney general said she wasn’t surprised by the judge’s decision, in part because “the right to vote in our nation is such a fundamentally protected right.”
The governor said he found it “so ironic” that the federal government isn’t allowing Guam voters to vote in the presidential elections, when Guam has one of the highest military enlistment rates in the country.
Guam sends its “sons and daughters to war to die for our nation,” the governor said, but Guam doesn’t have a full voting seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and doesn’t have a seat at all in the U.S. Senate.