The U.S. Virgin Islands and two constitutional law scholars have filed briefs in support of a voting rights case filed by Guam resident Luis Segovia, a member of the Guam Army National Guard, which has now reached the Supreme Court.
The case could decide whether 4 million Americans living in U.S. territories can vote in presidential elections.
Segovia, who previously lived in Illinois and served in the state's National Guard, has served two deployments to Afghanistan and provided security during the 2005 Iraqi elections.
According to the U.S. Virgin Islands brief, the lower courts' decisions "perpetuate a second-class treatment of U.S. citizens who reside in the territories that is incompatible with the Constitution."
Justin Weinstein Tull, one of two constitutional scholars who expressed support for Segovia's case, said in his brief, "The Supreme Court should make clear that making states solely responsible for fixing discriminatory federal laws is incompatible with the principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution."
The two most recent amicus briefs, filed by outside parties and meant to offer insight to the court, bring the case's amicus count to five.
Segovia appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its decision stating Segovia's case did not have legal standing to be heard in federal court, saying states should handle the issue instead.
The law at issue is the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which requires states to send absentee ballots to military and overseas voters, according to Equally American, the organization representing the plaintiffs in the Segovia case. However, the law excludes former state residents living on Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"A person born in one of the 50 states can work in the (U.S.) Virgin Islands, live on a neighboring island, such as Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and still maintain their right to vote," states the U.S. Virgin Islands brief. "Seemingly absurd, but that minor geographical anomaly permits that U.S. citizen the full voting rights and representation in a U.S. election."
The U.S. Virgin Islands brief cited the law's definitions, which consider Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa to be states for the purpose of the law, meaning residents of other states now living in those territories don't qualify as overseas voters.
"Plaintiffs – each a former resident of Illinois – have lost full enjoyment of their right to vote by virtue of living in Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands," according to the Equally American website.
The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision on whether to grant the appeal in late September, according to the release.