Democracy and political rights should not depend on where you live—Borja 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!).  

Ben_Borja_Navy_Photo.JPGVicente "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. 

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