In February, Right to Democracy Co-Director Neil Weare, who was raised and whose family lives in Guam, traveled across the Pacific as part of several cases, panels, and other events engaging with stakeholders in the territories and the advocacy community at large. Stops in Hawaii, Guam, and the Northern Marianas allowed Right to Democracy to continue efforts for cross-territorial collaboration, strategic litigation, and continued organizing and education.


Borja v. Nago

Photo: L-R, Jeremy Patashnik, Pamela Colon, Parker Rider-Longmaid, Neil Weare, Vanessa Williams

The trip started off in Hawaii where Neil joined co-counsel from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the law firm Skadden Arps to present arguments to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Borja v. Nago. Borja challenges discriminatory federal and state overseas voting laws that disfavor citizens who move to certain U.S. territories like Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands while favoring citizens who move to other territories like the Northern Mariana Islands or foreign countries. Arguments are available to watch here

“The Ninth Circuit has the opportunity to ensure the same legal standards apply to voting in U.S. territories as they do to voting anywhere else,” said Neil Weare, co-counsel in the case and co-director of Right to Democracy. “Discrimination of the right to vote should not be permitted just because it happens to affect people in U.S. territories.”Photo: L-R, Jeremy Patashnik, Pamela Colon, Parker Rider-Longmaid, Neil Weare, Vanessa Williams

“It is astonishing that under federal and state overseas voting laws that someone who decides to live in the British Virgin Islands can keep voting for president in their last state of residence, but our clients cannot because they decided to live in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Pamela Colon, a U.S. Virgin Islands attorney who was in Hawaii for the argument. “The Ninth Circuit should rule that kind of discrimination in voting violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.”

Read the full coverage in the Pacific Daily News here or the St. Thomas Source here.  

University of Hawaii Law School Event

The Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law at the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law hosted a discussion titled: Confronting Colonialism: Advancing Democracy, Equity and Self-Determination in U.S. Territories. The panel included Right to Democracy Board Members Charles V. Ala’ilima from American Samoa and Vanessa Williams from Guam, Borja Co-Counsel Pamela Colon, and RtD Co-Director Neil Weare, and was moderated by Professor Susan Serrano, Associate Director of the Ka Huli Ao Center. 





Moving on to Guam, Neil and some of his fellow co-counsels and panelists appeared on KUAM News to discuss Right to Democracy, the need for more cross-territorial organizing around the issue of territories, and the disparities those territories face when dealing with the federal government.

You can watch the full interview here.

Guam Bar Association Event

The trip continued with a Guam Bar Association, Continuing Legal Education (CLE) event entitled: “Cross-Territorial Perspectives on Civil Rights”. 


The visit to Guam also included various community events, dinners, and fundraisers 

Northern Mariana Islands

Northern Marianas College Panel

The trip was capped off by a panel organized by Right to Democracy and Northern Marianas College titled: Advancing Democracy, Equity, and Self-Determination in US Territories: Cross Territorial Perspectives.  The event attracted a lot of attendance and support. 


Right to Democracy seeks to root its work in community and solidarity. A key part of that work is taking the time to traverse the far distances that separate the territories to meet people where they are at. RtD looks forward to building on the connections made on this trip as part of its mission to advance democracy, equity, and self-determination in the territories