Home Commentary Op-ed USVI RESIDENCY RULE RULES OUT VISITING BVI VOTERS

USVI RESIDENCY RULE RULES OUT VISITING BVI VOTERS

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All of us who are native-born U.S. citizens or naturalized U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. Virgin Islands and meet the qualification for voting have a right to vote in USVI elections, but we do not have the right to vote in any elections on the U.S. mainland. If a U.S. citizen living on the U.S. mainland is qualified to vote there, he/she is not qualified to vote in the USVI. If, however, we have dual citizenship and another nation — or its territories — permits non-resident nationals to vote in its elections, that is its prerogative.
But it is not a two-way street.
Dual citizenship, of itself, does not necessarily grant voting rights. As long as British Virgin Islands law permits non-residents to vote and permits dual-citizenship rights in keeping with its voting registration requirements, a USVI registered (and even non-registered) dual-citizenship voter certainly can vote in the BVI.
As far as the United States or the USVI is concerned, it is not illegal for U.S. citizens to vote in BVI elections.
The USVI voting requirements mandate USVI residency, and they do not allow a BVI resident to vote in the USVI elections, except under absentee voting regulations.
Dual-citizenship voting elsewhere on the part of those who hold U.S. citizenship does not have anything to do with U.S. citizenship, and it will not cause anyone to lose that citizenship. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled extensively on this issue. Neither Congress nor the U.S. State Department nor the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service can remove U.S. citizenship unless at least one of seven reasons applies, and unless a verifiable intent to renounce citizenship is involved. Voting in foreign elections is not one of the reasons.
There is a rather large naturalized-citizen voter base in the USVI, and any of those U.S. citizens, if they are qualified, can vote in the USVI (as well as elsewhere) as long as they do not violate residency and other requirements of the USVI.
Again, it is not a two-way street.
Of course, U.S. citizens who live in the BVI might be able to meet the qualifications for USVI absentee balloting, provided they meet the USVI residency and other requirements. The USVI residency requirement cannot be overlooked. Apparently, persons living in the BVI cannot vote in USVI elections except by absentee ballot — if they meet the absentee voting regulations.
Concerning USVI voting regulations, the V.I. government, if it desires, has the right to change its requirement to make them more restrictive, as long as they remain in conformity with the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Any belief that a U.S. citizen living in the BVI can travel to the USVI and vote in the territory's elections is wrong. It is illegal, and persons advocating violating the law are irresponsible.
The biggest problem with possible illegal voting on the part of those holding dual citizenship would appear to be on St. Thomas and St. John, because of the proximity, the economy and ease of travel, and family ties with the British Virgin Islands. St. Croix is not as accessible. But, frankly, all USVI citizens should be concerned about having non-residents deciding who our elected governor and senators will be.
With all of the current melee, one wonders who's in charge, who is guarding the floodgate? Obviously the Board of Elections might have its hands full if there is a close race and questionable voting is involved. As it is, the board has automatic, codified time-limit requirements for validating voter registrations. It probably will have a busy 90-day period after the elections to investigate allegations of fraudulent voting. Has this been done before this election? Through all of this, it becomes obvious that every vote counts, and everyone qualified should exercise his/her voting rights. It's not a privilege; it is a right!

Editor's note: Dr. Robert V. Vaughn, Ed. D., a 38-year resident of St. Croix, is a former librarian/teacher at St. Dunstan's School, Good Hope School and the then-College of the Virgin Islands, part time. He was born in Ohio in 1924 and was a pilot in World War II. He served as secretary of the V.I. Emancipation 150 Commission.
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