A retired Air Force Major is suing the government of Guam and the Guam Election Commission for denying his right to participate in a vote regarding the territory’s future political status because of his race.
Arnold “Dave” Davis, who is white, objected to a recent report that recommended his lawsuit against the government of Guam and the Guam Election Commission be dismissed.
Davis’s lawyer, former Department of Justice Civil Rights lawyer J. Christian Adams, argued before Chief Judge Frances Tydingco Gatewood on Thursday that the Guam law violates Davis’s constitutional rights by not allowing him to participate in a scheduled plebiscite (a special referendum to determine Guam’s future status as a U.S. territory).
Even though Guam’s residents are subject to the U.S. Constitution and its laws, residents who are unable to claim Chamorro status (those who can trace their ancestry to Guam dating back to at least 1950) are not allowed to register to vote in the plebiscite.
Those who can claim Chamorro status make up only 36% of Guam’s population, while whites, blacks, and those of Asian (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino) descent who cannot claim such status make up 64% of the territory’s population.
Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department has been apathetic at best about the complaint.
Holder’s indifference to this complaint “is striking given that Guam’s law is even worse than many of the odious Jim Crow statutes that limited voting in the South.”
“Even under Jim Crow, some blacks successfully registered to vote after they navigated the nasty maze of character exams and shifting office hours,” Davis’s lawyer argued in July.
The arguments on Thursday were about whether Davis’ case is ripe for judicial review.
Adams showed the court a copy of Davis’s voided Guam Decolonization Registry application; he argued that even though the government has not set a date for the plebiscite and the 70% threshold for it has not been met, “this court had standing from the moment the Legislature passed the law” and, ” the moment the law relegated some citizen[s] to a second class citizen is when an injury occurred.”
Adams also forcefully pointed out that this case is a government not treating everyone equally under the law.
“Nobody can be denied because they don’t have the right bloodlines,” Adams argued. “This is about treating everyone on the island equally. It’s not a case of him trying to silence anybody but it’s a case about being treated equally … race has no place in any political process.”
There are also national security implications in this case.
Guam is “vital” to America’s “strategic posture in the Pacific” against China; an “illegal plebiscite” could lead to the expulsion of American’s military assets on the island.