Attorney sues for right to vote

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ST. CROIX - A V.I. Superior Court judge heard oral arguments in one of four cases pursuing the right to vote and run for federal office for territorial residents.

Local attorney Russell Pate last year filed the initial complaint in both districts of local and federal Virgin Islands courts suing several agencies for federal voting rights.

The cases, which are pending before U.S. District Judge Curtis Gomez and V.I. Superior Court Judge Adam Christian on St. Thomas and U.S. District Judge Wilma Lewis and V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks on St. Croix.

Pate argues that the denial of federal voting rights, dating from 1917 when the United States bought the territories, stems from segregation and Jim Crow laws of the time amid fears of the new U.S. Virgin Islands' black majority.

"There were no blacks in the government; there were no black people in Congress, and they wanted to ensure that they do not have any jurisdiction that would elect a black representative," Pate said.

In the case before Willocks, St. Croix-born plaintiff Bevron Goodwin is suing the V.I. Elections System and Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr. on behalf of all other persons born in and residing in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Pate said.

Outside the courtroom, Abramson has said he applauds Pate's efforts on behalf of his client and the people of the territory and supports any effort to equalize territorial and stateside Americans' civic rights.

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