Crowdfunding Legal Group Takes On US Territory Voting Rights Issue

We the People Project
New York City

Feb. 8, 2017

Plaintiffs from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico are making an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit arguing that where you live shouldn’t impact your right to vote for President.

The Segovia v. Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners’ appeal is now receiving extra support after a new crowdfunding platform, CrowdJustice, selected the case as part of its United States launch.

CrowdJustice, founded in the United Kingdom in 2015, helps raise funds for individuals, communities and non-profits seeking justice in the legal system.

“We are excited to have our case selected by CrowdJustice, which will help bring national attention to the issue of voting rights in U.S. territories while also providing important resources to expand our advocacy,” said Neil Weare, president and founder of We the People Project, a non-profit that advocates for equal rights and representation in U.S. territories. “The message we have for the rest of the country is that where you live should not impact your right to vote for president or have voting representation in Congress.”

Over 4 million Americans (a population larger than that of 24 individual states) are treated with a second-class status because they live in a U.S. territory.

Last year, a federal district court in Illinois ruled for the first time that if you live in a U.S. territory voting is not a “fundamental right,” upholding federal and state laws that permit former residents of Illinois to continue voting for president by absentee ballot if they move to U.S. territories like the Northern Mariana Islands or American Samoa (or a foreign country), but not if they move to Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Puerto Rico.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized this discriminatory treatment during a Senate hearing last year. The issue of territorial voting rights has also been featured in a powerful segment by HBO comedian John Oliver. If successful, the appeal could expand voting rights in U.S. territories, and would create a circuit split that could bring these important issues to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The veterans involved in the case are among the over 120,000 U.S. military veterans currently living in U.S. territories. “The right to vote is a core tenet of democracy,” said Julia Salasky, CEO of CrowdJustice. “Segovia is a fascinating case that brings up issues that many Americans may not be aware of — we are thrilled that We the People Project is part of our U.S. launch.”

We the People Project is raising $10,000 to help cover the costs of the appeal to the Seventh Circuit. Contributors have until March 14th to pledge toward the target goal at www.CrowdJustice.org/RightToVote

Pledges don’t result in any charges unless the target goal is met. All contributions to support the case are tax deductible, since We the People Project is a recognized 501(c)(3) organization.

Luis Segovia, lead plaintiff, is a member of the Guam Army National Guard, serving two deployments to Afghanistan. He also was deployed to provide security during the 2005 Iraqi Elections. “Veterans and Soldiers from Guam and other U.S. Territories have pledged allegiance to the flag and fought to protect and defend our country only to be denied the right to vote,” Mr. Segovia said.

On March 31, 2017, the U.S. Virgin Islands will celebrate 100 years as part of the United States. Pamela Colon, a criminal defense lawyer in St. Croix who is a plaintiff in the case, said “Voting rights would mean having a say in who our president is, who our federal judges are, and what laws we are required to follow.”

One week after CrowdJustice launched in the United States to raise funds for Trump v. Aziz — the powerful case of Tareq and Ahmed Aziz, two brothers from Yemen who were stopped from entering the U.S. from Yemen, on lawful green cards to which they were entitled — the crowdfunding case came to a close.

On Monday, they were reunited with their father, Aquel, at Dulles Airport. CrowdJustice’s first U.S. campaign was launched by the Legal Aid Justice Center — a legal advocacy shop that fights injustice and inequality in the lives of individual Virginians — to raise money for those detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/dullesdetainees.

CrowdJustice’s U.S. launch comes fresh off the heels of winning a monumental case on Brexit where the plaintiffs crowdfunded a “people’s challenge” all the way to the Supreme Court, which agreed that Parliament must authorize the UK leaving the European Union.

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