Federal appeals court still deliberating aspects of voting rights and American Samoa
American Samoa is again back in federal court, this time at the federal appeals level over a lower court’s decision last year dismissing a voting right lawsuit, which sought to give former residents of Illinois, who are active military personnel residing in Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, the right to vote in the election of the US President as well as Illinois’ Congressional race.
US Judge Joan B. Gottschall had focused her decision on American Samoa, which she says has “a unique relationship with the United States” and the reason why the territory remains on an Illinois state election law for overseas absentee voters.
Last August, Gottschall in the first summary judgment motion by the plaintiffs ruled to dismiss the lawsuit. Gottschall then sought comments and arguments in the second, and final part of the lawsuit, which focuses on the treatment of American Samoa under the Illinois Military Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE).
The law allows former residents of Illinois, who are registered voters to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections if they reside in American Samoa — but not other US territories. The plaintiffs, argued that the MOVE statute violates their equal protection rights by excluding former Illinois voters now living in Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.