March 20 – A District Court judge pledged Monday to rule on a seven-year-old lawsuit claiming the United States has illegally kept Virgin Islanders from voting for president and from having a voting member in the House of Representatives.
The suit, brought by activist and former Congressional delegate candidate Krim Ballentine, was filed in 1999.
Ballentine argued it was unconstitutional to ban U.S. citizens, regardless of their location, from equal representation in Washington.
"The Congress of the United States fail and continue to fail to provide a mechanism for voters to vote in all national elections while living in the Virgin Islands, effectively disenfranchising me in violation of my constitutional rights," he said.
"When I chose to make the Virgin Islands my home I did not surrender or renounce my citizenship or birthright," said Ballentine, a former U.S. Marshal born in Missouri.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joycelyn Hewlett disagreed and referred District Court Judge Anne Thompson to an Oct. 2004 ruling against a similar suit brought by Puerto Rican voting rights activists.
The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the Puerto Rico ruling Monday.
Hewlett also said Ballentine had no right to seek to change Virgin Islanders' voting status because he was not a "native Virgin Islander."
District Court Judge Thomas Moore initially heard Ballentine's suit in 2002 but left the bench without ruling. Judges Raymond Finch and Curtis Gomez have recused themselves from the case.
Judge Thompson said she will issue a ruling in May.
It is not yet clear how a ruling in Ballentine's favor would effect the more than 4 million people living in the five U.S. territories: Guam, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands.
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