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HomeNewsArchivesJudge Dismisses Suit Seeking V.I. Voting Rights in Federal Elections

Judge Dismisses Suit Seeking V.I. Voting Rights in Federal Elections

Sept. 28, 2006 — A federal judge has struck down a suit from a St. Thomas activist who argued that Virgin Islanders and millions of Americans living in U.S. territories have been unjustly barred from voting in federal elections for president and for Congressional representation.
District Court Judge Anne Thompson dismissed the suit brought by former Congressional Delegate candidate Krim Ballentine, who had argued that rules blocking Americans living in U.S. territories from voting in federal elections were unconstitutional.
"The Constitution does not grant the right to vote for president … to individual citizens, but to electors appointed by each state," Thompson wrote in her opinion published Sept. 21. "The Virgin Islands is not a state, but, as Mr. Ballentine acknowledges, an unincorporated territory of the United States."
She also struck down Ballentine's argument that the U.S. Virgin Islands and the other territories should have a full member of Congress instead of their nonvoting delegate.
"… Pursuant to Article I of the Constitution, only states are entitled to regular voting members," Thompson said.
Ballentine said he plans to appeal.
"It's an injury to the whole idea of U.S. citizenship, Ballentine said.
"Either I'm property or I'm a citizen. Clearly Congress had the right to make laws about property in the U.S. territories. We're not property," said Ballentine, a 69-year-old retired U.S. Marshal who was transferred to the Virgin Islands from his home in St. Louis, Mo., in 1973 during the Fountain Valley trial.
"No place in the Constitution does the government have the right to put restrictions on citizens. The reason the Constitution is there, is to put restrictions on the government. Somewhere we forgot that," he said. "When the police reads you your rights, he's reading his rights to question you.
"They didn't tell me when they transferred me down here that I couldn't vote for president," he said. "Once you are born in this country, you're a citizen."
Thompson said her decision followed a 2005 ruling against a similar suit in Puerto Rico and a 1984 ruling against the people of Guam.
Some 112,000 people live in the U.S. Virgin Islands and 3.6 million in Puerto Rico. More than 306,000 live in the U.S. Pacific territories of Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.
In March, Thompson said she expected to rule on the Virgin Islands case in May, but did not rule until Sept. 21. Ballentine said he did not know of the ruling until Thursday.
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