Six years ago, retired Air Force officer Arnold Davis, a resident of Guam, tried to register to vote on a plebiscite regarding Guam’s future. His application was rejected and marked as “void” by the Guam Election Commission
Why? Because Guam banned residents from registering or voting unless they are Chamorro “natives,” which to the territorial government means people whose ancestors were original inhabitants of Guam. Chamorros constitute only about 36 percent of the island’s present population.
Davis, a white man, is not Chamorro. Therefore, he was deemed ineligible to vote.
Denying Davis the right to vote because of his race and national origin is an obvious violation of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. Yet, as Hans von Spakovsky notes, the Obama administration did not lift a finger on behalf of Davis. It neither filed suit against Guam nor intervened in support of the lawsuit filed on Davis’ behalf by our friend Christian Adams and the Center for Individual Rights. Instead, the Obama administration gave Guam $300,000 to help finance the plebiscite.
It took six years, but Davis’ right to vote has finally been upheld. Earlier this month, Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood ruled that Guam’s law limiting registration and voting to “Native Inhabitants” of the island is a violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The judge, who originally had dismissed the case, finally recognized that the Constitution does not allow the government “to exclude otherwise qualified voters in participating in an election where public issues are decided simply because those otherwise qualified voters do not have the correct ancestry or bloodline.”
The Supreme Court has already ruled as much. Von Spakovsky points to Rice v. Cayetano, a case from 2000 that threw out a similar voting restriction enacted by Hawaii. It held that the Fifteenth Amendment “prohibits all provisions denying or abridging the voting franchise of any citizen or class of citizens on the basis of race,” and made clear that ancestry cannot be used as a proxy for race.
The government of Guam appears ready to resist Judge Tydingco-Gatewood’s ruling, however. The governor has vowed to find a “way to work around” it, adding that when the judge “says we can’t — I say we can.”
The governor’s defiance makes it essential that the Justice Department counteract any effort to subvert the judge’s ruling. Fortunately, we can have a good degree of confidence that, unlike the Obama Justice Department, the current DOJ will defend the right of members of all races and ethnic groups to vote.