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Judicial Watch • Another Court Blasts Unconstitutional, Race-Based Voting

Another Court Blasts Unconstitutional, Race-Based Voting

Another Court Blasts Unconstitutional, Race-Based Voting

DECEMBER 29, 2016

The courts just handed unconstitutional, race-based voting—backed by the Obama administration—another defeat as the government agency charged with cracking down on such violations fails miserably to do its job. Private citizens and groups such as Judicial Watch have been forced to take legal action at their own expense to stop these racist voting practices that clearly infringe on an assortment of federal statutes.

The latest blow was delivered this week by a federal appellate court ruling in a Northern Mariana Islands case and comes on the heels of a Supreme Court injunction in a similar lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch in Hawaii. Both cases involve blatantly unconstitutional practices that violate the Fifteenth Amendment’s prohibition against racial discrimination in voting and the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement of equal protection. In the Mariana Islands suit a citizen, John Davis, challenged a Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands law restricting voting in certain elections to individuals of “Northern Marianas descent” as unconstitutional. The U.S. commonwealth defines this as persons who are at least one-quarter indigenous, either Chamorro or Carolinian, or a combination of both. Davis is a resident and taxpayer but doesn’t count as “native” so he wasn’t allowed to vote. He had to hire an attorney because the Department of Justice (DOJ), which is responsible for enforcing voter rights, refused to get involved.

In 2014 an Obama-appointed federal judge ruled against the provision that limited registration and voting to only those persons of Northern Marianas descent, concluding that the system violates both the Fifteenth Amendment’s prohibition against racial discrimination in voting and the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement of equal protection. In the decision the judge, Ramona Manglona, slammed the government’s claim that its racial classification is political and not racial. “Race, as used in the Reconstruction-era civil-rights laws, meant something other than or in addition to skin color or shared physical features,” the ruling states. “It also referred to classes of persons singled out solely because of their ancestry or ethnic characteristics.” The judge also found that the Marianas government violated a law that guarantees the right of citizens of the United States to vote in all state or territorial elections “without distinction of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

The Northern Marianas appealed and this week the California-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s ruling, finding that the measure is a “race-based restriction” that violates the Fifteenth Amendment. “The Commonwealth cannot limit or modify the United States Constitution by adopting inconsistent provisions in its own constitution,” the famously liberal appellate panel writes. The judges also note that the voting restriction would divide the citizenry of the Commonwealth between Northern Mariana descent and non-Northern Mariana descent when voting on amendments to a property restriction that affects everyone. The Fifteenth Amendment aims to prevent precisely this sort of division in voting, the appellate court points out in its decision.

Judicial Watch makes similar arguments in its Hawaii case, filed last year on behalf of citizens of the island who were denied the right to vote based on their race or viewpoint. The state of Hawaii implemented a scheme that used a voting list restricted by both race and viewpoint to conduct an election for Native Hawaiian “self-government” by allowing only native Hawaiians to vote. Act 195 defines a “Native Hawaiian” as any person whom the government determines to be a direct descendant of the State’s aboriginal peoples. Judicial Watch argued that the restrictions violate the U.S. Constitution, including the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Fifteenth Amendment, the First Amendment, and the Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments; and federal law, including the Civil Rights Act of 1871 and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In a huge victory, last December the Supreme Court issued an injunction halting Hawaii’s race-based “Native Hawaiian-only” election. Judicial Watch had sought a preliminary injunction from the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii to stop the illegal election in November and unsuccessfully sought an urgent motion for injunction with the 9th Circuit, ironically the court that just slammed the Mariana Islands’ racist voting system. Refusing to give up, Judicial Watch filed and emergency application with the Supreme Court, which issued an order temporarily enjoining the election pending review by the entire high court. Under federal law, the Supreme Court only issues emergency injunctions when the circumstances presented are “critical and exigent” and the legal rights at issue are “indisputably clear.”


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