The right to vote in the United States should not depend on where you live—Borja v. Nago (formerly Reeves v. Nago) is a federal voting rights lawsuit that puts this principle to the test for citizens living in U.S. territories.
Under federal and state overseas voting laws, residents of a state who move to certain U.S. territories or foreign countries can continue voting for President and voting representation in Congress by absentee ballot in their former state of residence. But those who move to other U.S. territories cannot. Right to Democracy has joined with six U.S. citizens in Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands to challenge federal and state laws that unconstitutionally deny them absentee voting rights enjoyed by citizens literally anywhere else in the world (and even outer space!).
Vicente "Ben" T. Borja is a 28-year veteran of the United States Navy. Mr. Borja has served on multiple tours, lived in Hawaii, and established residency there, but had to relocate to Guam after his wife's cancer treatment was unfortunately unsuccessful. Even though Mr. Borja was part of the draft, resided in a state, and served for the United States, he has no right to vote for the President of the United States as a resident of Guam. Mr. Borja is not even allowed to vote by absentee ballot in Hawaii. Like many others, Mr. Borja is of the opinion that if he is eligible for the draft, he should also be eligible to vote.
Under the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) and Hawaii's Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act (Hawaii UMOVA), a former resident of Hawaii who is now a resident of the Northern Mariana Islands or a foreign country can continue voting for President and voting representation in Congress in Hawaii by absentee ballot. But plaintiffs – each former residents of Hawaii – have lost full enjoyment of their right to vote by virtue of living in Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The lawsuit is part of a broader effort by Right to Democracy to advance democracy and self-determination in U.S. territories. Right to Democracy does not take a position on political status - that is for the people of each territory to decide. But when federal or state laws discriminate to unconstitutionally deny residents of U.S. territories their right to vote, courts can and should intervene.
Ninth Circuit Filings
- September 9, 2023, Plaintiffs-Appellants Reply Brief
- July 31, 2023, Defendant-Appellee Scott T. Nago's Answering Brief (Hawaii)
- July 24, 2023, Brief for Federal Appellees
- May 8, 2023, Campaign Legal Center Amicus Brief in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellants
- May 8, 2023, Virgin Islands Bar Association Amicus Brief in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellants
- May 1, 2023, Plaintiffs-Appellants Opening Brief
District Court Filings
- September 6, 2022, Order Granting Defendants' Cross Motions for Summary Judgment and Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment
- February 11, 2022, State and County Defendants' Reply to Cross Motion for Summary Judgment
- February 11, 2022, Federal Defendants Reply to Cross Motion for Summary Judgment
- January 21, 2022, Plaintiffs Reply in Support of Motion to Summary Judgment
- December 22, 2021, Hawaii Defendants' Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment
- December 22, 2021, Defendant Takahashi's Joinder to Federal and State Motions for Summary Judgment
- December 21, 2021, Federal Defendants' Opposition and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment
- November 22, 2021, Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment
- September 2, 2021, Order Denying Defendants' Second Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction
- July 30, 2021, Federal Defendants' Reply In Support of Second Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction
- July 16, 2021, Partial Opposition to Second Motion to Dismiss, filed by Hawaii
- July 16, 2021, Opposition to Second Motion to Dismiss, filed by Borja Plaintiffs
- June 14, 2021, Defendant Scott Nago's Partial Joinder In the Federal Defendants' Second Motion to Dismiss For Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction
- June 14, 2021, Second Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, filed by Federal Defendants
- April 23, 2021, Order Granting Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction
- April 2, 2021, United States Supplemental Briefing, filed by Federal Defendants
- April 1, 2021, Hawaii Supplemental Briefing, filed by Hawaii Defendants
- March 19, 2021, Plaintiffs Supplemental Briefing, filed by Borja Plaintiffs
- March 5, 2021, Transcript of Hearing on Motion to Dismiss
- February 2, 2021, Opposition to Motion to Dismiss, filed by the Borja Plaintiffs
- February 2, 2021, State and Local Defendants Joinder to Opposition to Motion to Dismiss (Traceability)
- January 15, 2021, State and Local Defendants Partial Joinder to Motion to Dismiss (Redressability)
- January 14, 2021, Motion to Dismiss, filed by Federal Defendants
- October 8, 2020, Complaint, filed by the Borja Plaintiffs.
Additional Resources and Advocacy Opportunities
- Watch Senator Elizabeth Warren call the challenged discrimination in U.S. Territories "absurd".
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