Although the CNMI is not party to an impending lawsuit seeking for voting rights for citizens of U.S. territories, CNMI residents should have their say on the issue and present this to the U.S. government, according to Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan).
Demapan, who chairs the Federal and Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representative, also said “it is premature, at this point, to comment on the issue since none has been filed in the courts yet.”
The lawmaker was asked to comment on a move by civil rights group “We the People Project,” which is reportedly preparing the lawsuit against the federal government.
A Pacific Daily News report quoted the group as saying it “is developing its case and could file the lawsuit within the next few months.”
Demapan said he is “aware that this has been a longstanding issue for many people in the Commonwealth and throughout the other territories.”
“For the CNMI in particular, the inability to cast a vote for President of the United States begs the question of just how much of a political union we have with the United States as intended by our Covenant,” he said.
The lawmaker further said while the CNMI is not a party to this planned lawsuit, “I believe we should seek the input of our people and present our position to the U.S. government.”
We the People Project, which is led by former Guam resident Neil Weare, is dedicated to achieving equal rights and representation for the 4.7 million Americans who live in U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
According to Saipan Tribune archives, Weare last visited Saipan in May 2013 to familiarize the CNMI about the project. In his presentation at the Northern Marianas College, he talked about the need for a new civil rights movement centered on achieving equal rights for the residents of U.S. territories and D.C.
Weare, a civil rights attorney, is a graduate of Southern High in Guam and Yale Law School. He also represented Guam in the 2004 Athens Olympics. As president and founder of We the People Project, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., he is lead counsel in Tuaua v. United States, a groundbreaking case arguing that Congress cannot deny Americans in the territories the right to constitutional citizenship.
Weare is also promoting We the People Projects Equal Rights Pledge, where residents of the NMI can show their support for equal rights and representation. The pledge can be signed online at http://www.equalrightsnow.org/equal_rights_pledge.
People interested in supporting We the People Project with a financial contribution may make a secure online donation at https://wethepeopleproject.nationbuilder.com/make_a_donation. (Joel Pinaroc)