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HomeNewsArchivesFederal Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Against Voting by Virgin Islanders

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Ruling Against Voting by Virgin Islanders

May 17, 2007 — A federal appeals court has ruled against a claim for V.I. voting rights, saying a previous federal judge was correct in upholding a ban on Virgin Islanders voting for president.
Krim Ballentine, a retired U.S. marshal who has spent the last decade fighting the ban, said the Third Circuit Court of Appeals' decision was not only wrong but racially motivated.
A septuagenarian who acknowledges he's seen as a cantankerous pain in the side, Ballentine was uncharacteristically agitated by the decision he said was based on Jim Crow-era legal arguments.
"They're not giving me respect as a citizen," he said. "I don't care if people like me. I want them to respect me."
Ballentine originally brought the suit in 1999, saying U.S. citizens, regardless of where they live, should not be denied voting rights or full representation in Congress. A Missouri native, Ballentine said he originally filed his lawsuit because he felt it was unfair for his voting rights to be stripped from him after moving to the territory.
Judge Thomas Moore asked advice from experts at Yale Law School on the case, but eventually left the bench in 2005 without reaching a decision. That same year, Judges Curtis Gomez and Raymond Finch recused themselves from the case.
Finally, New Jersey Judge Anne Thompson heard Ballentine's case, eventually ruling in 2006 that Virgin Islanders are not entitled to federal voting rights.
"The Constitution does not grant the right to vote for president … to individual citizens, but to electors appointed by each state," Thompson wrote in her opinion published Sept. 21, 2006. "The Virgin Islands is not a state, but, as Mr. Ballentine acknowledges, an unincorporated territory of the United States."
Thompson also struck down Ballentine's argument that the U.S. Virgin Islands and the other territories should have a full member of Congress instead of their nonvoting delegate.
"… Pursuant to Article I of the Constitution, only states are entitled to regular voting members," Thompson said.
The three judges on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with all of Thompson's findings.
Ballentine said he hasn't read the opinion yet, but steadfastly disagrees with Thompson's ruling.
"The U.S. Virgin Islands was told by the Organic Act that you're not going to be a citizen like the rest of us," he said. "The Emancipation Proclamation didn't make us ex-slaves, it made us free men."
The ruling violates his constitutional rights, Ballentine argued.
"Congress can't give me the right to vote," he said. "The Constitution already did that. There was no need to write the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote, because there never was a law keeping them from voting."
Ballentine argued that Virgin Islanders were limiting themselves by accepting the Organic Act, which he says is unconstitutional.
He also said he was sure the upcoming V.I. Constitutional Convention will fail to produce a working constitution for the islands. He has declined to take part in the process, saying it was up to native-born Virgin Islanders.
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