Denial of voting rights violates human rights, international law


Four decades after voting overwhelmingly in favor of the Covenant of Political Union with the United States, the people of the Marianas enjoy the benefit of tens of millions of dollars in federal support each year, as well as the priceless benefit of U.S. citizenship.

Yet our citizenship is flawed; because, if we choose to live in the Marianas, we cannot vote for President and have no voting representation in Congress.

For that reason, I have joined an amicus brief in support of a case brought by former Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Rosselló before the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Rosselló v. United States argues that by denying U.S. citizens, like us, voting representation in the federal government, the United States is violating its international law obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

As your representative in Congress, I have learned to be effective even without a vote on the House floor. After all, decisions on the content of legislation are mostly made long before any final vote there.

But, for those of us who care deeply about political status, simply making the best of an imperfect system is not good enough. I believe, if Congress is going to enact laws impacting the well-being of the Marianas, then our people should have the same voting representation other Americans enjoy.

In the 2003 case, Statehood Solidarity Committee v. United States, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that the denial of voting representation in Congress for residents of the District of Columbia violated the United States’ international law commitments.

Despite that ruling, no change has come for D.C. The only change for any U.S. non-state area has been the creation of the seat in Congress for the Marianas.

I intend to use that seat, as long as it is entrusted to me, to work for equality and improved political status for the Marianas, even if the day of success seems distant.

Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Special to the Saipan Tribune)

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