GEC releases new figures in native inhabitant registry
The Guam Election Commission last month released updated numbers of registered native inhabitants who may participate in Guam's decolonization plebiscite.
According to the GEC website, there were 13,192 native inhabitants of Guam as of Nov. 30, 2016.
Under current Guam law, participation in the decolonization plebiscite is reserved to native inhabitants. Further, the designation of "native inhabitant" refers to any person who became a U.S. citizen as a result of the passage of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam, and their descendants.
It is exactly these requirements that have stalled the plebiscite process, according to Post files. While Gov. Eddie Calvo originally intended to push for the plebiscite vote during the 2016 general election, the effort was postponed pending an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General.
During an August meeting of the Commission on Decolonization, independence task force chairman Michael Bevacqua said more time was needed for a fair and comprehensive education campaign. More importantly, commissioners expressed concern over the question of a 70 percent threshold requirement.
Under current provisions for the plebiscite, 70 percent of Guam's native inhabitant population must participate for the plebiscite to be valid. However, commissioners questioned how such a figure would be determined as an exact figure of native inhabitants, as defined by Guam law, was unavailable at the time.
In an effort to educate and seek participation of native inhabitants in the plebiscite, and to reach the 70 percent threshold requirement, GEC stationed native inhabitant registrars at all of the polling sites throughout the primary and general elections. However, even at 13,192 registered native inhabitants, the 70 percent mark appears far off.
In an effort to address the complications presented by the 70 percent requirement, Calvo requested an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General. The governor made the request in April of last year, but the OAG has yet to respond.
Challenges to native inhabitant requirement
While a determination of an exact date for the decolonization plebiscite has been stymied for some time due to educational and registration failures, it might all be for naught as legal battles fought here and elsewhere may weigh in on any decision regarding the right of the government to exclude the self-determination vote to native inhabitants.
For one, there is the ongoing case in the U.S. District Court, in which Arnold "Dave" Davis has argued that he and other "non-native" inhabitants should be able to vote because exclusion from the plebiscite is tantamount to a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
While Davis' case remains under judicial review as of September, another recent case has potential bearing on the issue.
According to Post files, a recent 9th Circuit Court decision in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands resulted in a turnover of a rule that reserved participation in a special election in 2014 to native inhabitants of the Northern Marianas and their descendants.
John H. Davis Jr. filed the lawsuit that resulted in the decision against the Commonwealth Election Commission, CEC Chairwoman Frances Sablan and CNMI Gov. Eloy Inos, alleging the law unconstitutionally limited voting on the basis of race.
The district court in the CNMI granted John Davis declaratory and injunctive relief, and required that all those of non-Northern Marianas descent be permitted to vote in the special election.
Based on the 9th Circuit Court decision in the CNMI case and whatever decision the judge makes in Davis' case on Guam, the members of the 34th Guam Legislature will need to review and possibly amend the current political status law.