A law to establish a system allowing citizens to electronically access legal documents was approved Monday by the Senate Committee on Government Operations and Consumer Protection.

The bill is based on a uniform law adopted in 2011 by the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform Laws.

Monday’s hearing drew nothing but support for the legislation from the testifiers and committee members alike. Should the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act be signed into law, the U.S. Virgin Islands would become the 23rd jurisdiction to enact it.

Bill sponsor Sen. Carla Joseph said the legislation is “critical,” as it will “eliminate the barriers we have been placing” on access to information “especially in the midst of this pandemic.”

Attorney Tom Bolt, chairman of the V.I. Uniform Law Commission, told committee members there were several benefits to adopting the uniform law.

“In establishing a framework for states and territories to publish official legal material online, Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act makes the legal system easier to access for laypeople, as well as attorneys. It lowers the cost barriers to the legal system for citizens and helps self-represented litigants by ensuring ready access to official and trustworthy legal information,” Bolt said.

The law would require all electronic documents to be authenticated, preserved, and made permanently accessible to the public. And because of the nature of a uniform law, it provides an additional benefit, he added.

The law allows “for reciprocity between adopting states, which brings efficiency and cost-savings to business dealings and court proceedings,” Bolt said. “For example, an enacting state’s electronic legal materials covered by Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act will be recognized by courts in other enacting states as presumptively authentic, making expensive and time-consuming proofs unnecessary.”

Wolf Law Library Director Leslie Street told the committee that electronic information has given rise to the opportunity for people to have “the laws that govern them at their fingertips.”

“One of the most important hallmarks of any democracy is not only that citizens have the right to vote and petition their government, but that the public also have access to the laws that they are governed by,” Street said.

Not just laws, but a multitude of documents could be provided, some documents that Bolt said the public hasn’t seen in over 10 years.

“Years ago, there was published the opinions of the attorney general. We haven’t seen that published in 10 to 15 years now,” Bolt said. “It would help justice in the Virgin Islands if those could be published and could be made available to the Virgin Islands public in electronic form.”

Bolt added that in the past the territory had court libraries available to the public but they no longer are.

“Virgin Islanders have been cut off access from there. It’s not as simple as going down to the court anymore … There is a crying need for Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act in the territory,” he said.

All seven committee members – Sens. Joseph, Novelle Francis Jr., Marvin Blyden, Alma Francis Heyliger, Javan James Sr., Franklin Johnson, and Milton Potter voted to advance the legislation to the Rules and Judiciary Committee, where it will be further reviewed. Additional senators who are not committee members also were present.

For more information regarding allowing citizens to electronically access legal documents, please contact a business attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi PC, a full-service business law firm on St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands.


stthomassource.com/content/2021/06/14/senate-panel-oks-bill-authorizing-digitizing-usvis-legal-documents: By Bethaney Lee


A limited liability company (LLC) is a business structure designed to protect the personal assets and interests of the individual members of the company, while avoiding the double taxation that many corporations often incur. LLC’s offer protection from personal lawsuits while preventing double taxation on corporate and personal revenue.

LLC’s are unique to the United States and are available in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Limited Liability Company Act of 1998 regulates LLC’s in the Territories.

In addition to the limited liability benefit individual members gain by forming an LLC, there are many other benefits that LLC’s enjoy.

Company formation

To register as an LLC, the company name must be unique and not similar to another company name already registered in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It must also include the words “limited company,” or “limited liability company,” or the abbreviation “LC” or “LLC.”

The LLC must have a local registered agent and a local office address for official notices and service requests.

Turnaround time for incorporating an LLC ranges from one week to one month. This depends on how well the company completed its application and how many applications are currently being processed.

Company structure

In short, LLC’s are formed by the filing of Articles of Organization with the Lieutenant Governor’s Division of Corporations.  One or more persons can form a limited liability company, consisting of at least one member, and both private individuals and corporations can be members.

Tax benefits

LLC’s are generally required to file tax returns annually. LLC’s are not required to pay corporate taxes unless the LLC has elected to be treated as a regular corporation for tax purposes.  In most situations, the LLC is treated as a “pass-through” entity whereby the revenue and deductions flow from the LLC directly to its member(s), and the member(s) are responsible for incorporating those figures on their personal returns.

Maintaining an LLC

LLC’s have a low required minimum capital contribution of $1,000 by its member(s).

LLC’s are required to file annual reports with the Lieutenant Governor and pay an annual franchise fee each year. The annual fee is computed by assessing $1.50 for each thousand dollars of capital used in conducting business in the Virgin Islands, provided, however, that the minimum  is $300.

For more tips about forming LLC’s in the U.S. Virgin Islands, contact a business attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

J. Nash Davis is Chair of the Real Estate & Financial Services Practice Group at BoltNagi PC, a full-service business law firm on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.




A push for legal protection under the Constitution for the U.S. Virgin Islands recently won support from a national organization representing lawyers. Members of the Virgin Islands Bar Association petitioned the American Bar Association, asking for their support in a matter involving the Fourth Amendment right to legal search and seizure.

The American Bar Association House of Delegates approved the resolution, saying that people traveling between the U.S. Virgin Islands and the U.S. mainland must be given the same protections as they enjoy in Puerto Rico and the 50 states.

The resolution was introduced by St. Thomas attorney Tom Bolt, who is currently serving as the territory’s representative to the house of delegates. Adoption of the resolution came in response to a ruling by a federal appellate court in a case based in the V.I. involving smuggled firearms.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition to review the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in the case of United States v. Baxter.

“Though the Supreme Court has identified the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable search and seizure as a right that extends to the U.S. territories, a decision [made] last year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit deviated from this precedent. In United States v. Baxter, the 3rd Circuit applied the international ‘border search exception’ to searches of people and goods traveling between the mainland United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Equally American founder Neil Weare.

In the Baxter case, court documents say a drug-sniffing dog picked up the scent of marijuana from a package traveling through the Cyril E. King Airport, arriving on a cargo plane. Inspectors with U.S. Customs and Border Protection opened the package and did not find any drugs, but did find ammunition, a bullet magazine and parts of a firearm. A second package, with the same address and more weapons parts, arrived days later.

Authorities then set up a controlled delivery and apprehended a suspect, charged with two counts of illegal transport of firearms.

Weare said in that case, authorities missed an important step – going to court to prove probable cause and obtaining a search warrant.

“And that’s what happens every day, all over the country, and they do it in Puerto Rico. These kinds of things happen all the time,” Weare said. “That’s what the Constitution requires to protect people’s civil liberties.”

Lawyers representing the federal government invoked the border-search protection exception to the Fourth Amendment in justifying the action taken by Customs. The District Court of the Virgin Islands granted a motion to suppress the evidence because of the way it was discovered. The 3rd Circuit court reversed that decision on appeal.

The resolution adopted by the House of Delegates called for an end to the use of the exception in search and seizure actions in the U.S. Virgin Islands and other insular areas. “The American Bar Association supports the passage of appropriate legislation to abolish the border-search exception to the Fourth Amendment for travel between a United States territory and other parts of the United States,” part of the resolution read.

Firearms trafficking is not unusual in the Virgin Islands. In November, two siblings were sentenced to federal prison for sending and receiving disassembled weapons parts from Georgia to the St. Thomas Jet Center. Defendant Natasha France was sentenced to three years; co-defendant Shawn Tyson received 10 years as a felon in possession of illegal firearms.

Bolt said he does not know if the actions taken by Customs in the Baxter case also happen in other cases involving apprehension of illegal weapons shipped to the territory. “I don’t know if a study has been done, but I think the people of the Virgin Islands should have the same protections against unreasonable search and seizure. We’re not asking for any more, we’re not asking for any less,” the attorney said.

Weare said it’s common for law enforcement action to conflict with the observance of civil liberties. “They did their job because they had a drug-sniffing dog find the package. With that evidence they should have got a warrant to search the package like they would have done anywhere else in the United States,” he said.

Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney and Chair of the Government Relations Practice Group at BoltNagi PC, a full-service business law firm based on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

After a court enters a judgment in a civil case, it is up to the prevailing party (sometimes called a “judgment creditor”) to execute that judgment.  This requires a writ of execution, which is a form of legal process issued by a court that directs the court marshal to seize (or “attach”) the assets of the losing party (sometimes called a “judgment debtor”) to satisfy the judgment debt.

Here’s some information about writs of execution and how they are used:

  • Jurisdictional limits: Writs of execution are typically only limited to the state or territory in which the court is located, unless a federal statute, rule, or court order extends its jurisdiction. A writ of execution issued in Florida, then, would likely not be applicable in the U.S. Virgin Islands unless it is enforceable under a federal statute or it is given the same force and effect of a Virgin Islands writ through a process known as “domestication of a foreign judgment.”
  • Issued and served by: A writ of execution is issued by the clerk of the court that issued the judgment. Writs from the District Court of the Virgin Islands or the U.S. Bankruptcy Court are served by the United States Marshal.  Writs from the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands are served by the Virgin Islands Marshal.
  • Service: Any writ of execution must be served in accordance with all instructions contained in the writ and with all local laws. The judgment creditor may be required to provide an indemnity bond and advance deposit to cover any out-of-pocket expenses estimated to be incurred by the U.S. Marshal. In some cases, it might be helpful for the judgment creditor to accompany the Marshal in the execution of the writ to answer any questions that arise.
  • Eligible assets: Under Virgin Islands law, a judgment creditor whose judgment only allows for recovery of money damages must first try to attach the personal assets of the judgment debtor.  A judgment creditor can only attach real property owned by the judgment debtor if there are not enough personal assets to satisfy the judgment.  (In foreclosure actions, however, the mortgaged property can be attached immediately without first attaching personal assets.)  The Virgin Islands protects certain assets from attachment, such as the family homestead (up to $300,000), automobile, and other personal effects.  A judgment creditor can ask the court to hold a hearing (called a “judgment debtor examination”) where the judgment creditor can ask for details about the judgment debtor’s finances in order to uncover attachable assets.
  • Attachment of assets: The Marshal will take physical custody of any attached property that is capable of being moved and hold it until it can be sold at a public auction. For immoveable assets (such as real estate), the Marshal will attach the asset by physically posting the writ at the property.  Assets are ordinarily held under supervision of the court, though there are some circumstances (such as in admiralty cases) where the judgment creditor or a third-party custodian can assume control over the attached property and be directly responsible for its maintenance.  In such a case, the judgment creditor usually must provide the Marshal with a signed statement that revokes any liability on the part of the Marshal for any damages incurred to the property as a result of the seizure while the property is in his or her custody. The Marshal maintains responsibility for selling the attached property.
  • Return: The “return” of the writ is a certification by the marshal detailing the assets that were attached. If cash money for the judgment is collected, the return will specify how the funds were applied and what further action should be taken.
  • Till tap: In some cases, the party whose property is being seized is a business rather than a particular individual. A “till tap” involves seizing money directly from the cash register of a business as part of the service of a writ of execution. Local laws dictate the execution of a till tap.

This is just a brief overview of what a writ of execution is and the processes associated with it. For more information about how to execute a judgment and collect the money you’re owed as part of your lawsuit, contact an experienced attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands today.

A. Jennings Stone is an attorney in the litigation practice group and concentrates his practice in the area of foreclosures at the law firm of BoltNagi PC. BoltNagi PC is a full-service business law firm in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

One of the scariest nightmares business owners have is experiencing a data breach at their company. Whether a small business or a multinational corporation, no one wants their customers to think their information can’t be trusted with your business.

A data breach is the release of secure or private information to an untrusted environment. Data breaches can be intentional, like a hacker attacking the system, or unintentional, like a company employee losing his laptop.

Data breaches are costly and potentially disastrous. According to the Ponemon Institute the average cost of a data breach was $148 per record in 2017. The biggest costs are related to losing customers and it could take years to regain that trust, if regained at all.

Naturally, your best bet is to avoid a data breach by investing in strong security measures and making privacy and security core tenants of your business. This is particularly important if your business deals in sensitive information, like Social Security numbers.

If your company is the victim of a security breach, your company’s response can make a huge difference in potential losses. Read on for steps to take after a data breach.

Step One: Evaluate your legal and ethical responsibilities

Before doing anything else, take some time to evaluate your legal obligations. In the U.S. Virgin Islands businesses are required to report the security breach to customers as soon as possible, without unreasonable delay. Businesses also need to notify the software company who manages the data, if any, and local law enforcement.

Legal requirements may not be enough to restore trust with your customers. You’re required to notify customers in a timely manner, but if you want to maintain their trust you may offer free services like credit reporting for the next year.

Step Two: Thoughtfully craft your response

The Ponemon Institute study found that companies who react quickly and notify their customers immediately lose more per compromised record. This is because they often don’t have all the facts yet, so customers ask questions the company is still unable to answer. They report too many or too few customers impacted, and spend just as much time cleaning up the notification error. Make sure you have a thorough understand of the breach first.

Note that while it takes time to gather the facts, companies should still move quickly. Legal regulations are more important than public relations.

Step Three: Evaluate what went wrong, and fix it

A postmortem evaluation will help you discover what went wrong, and how it can be avoided in the future. An outside consultant is a great investment to identify exactly how the breach happened and where your company can improve.

Most data breaches occur when technology wasn’t applied properly. Businesses need to prioritize privacy and security, and ensure their employees are properly trained and understand the repercussions of failing to use secure systems.

Step Four: Keep customers informed

Your customers want to know you’re avoiding future breaches and working to keep their data safe. You don’t need to let them know all the details, but let them know you’ve invested in new tools and have developed new policies. You’ll likely still lose customers because of a data breach, but those you’ve retained or you hope to attract in the future want to know how you’ll make their private information a priority.

For more information on data security in the U.S. Virgin Islands, contact an experienced attorney today.

Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi PC, a full-service business law firm on St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands.





As a business owner and employer, it is crucial that you understand all the wage and hour regulations that are required in the USVI as they are significantly different than the federal overtime requirements exist so you do not infringe on your employees’ rights. One of the issues to familiarize yourself with is when you are required to pay overtime in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Here is a quick overview of when you are required to pay overtime in the USVI:

The basics

The minimum wage in the U.S. Virgin Islands, as of Feb. 2021, is $10.50/hour.

An eligible hourly employee is to be paid overtime pay, or “time-and-a-half” of their regular hourly rate, when they work in a workweek (Monday through Sunday) for all hours worked:

  • over 8 hours each day;
  • over 40 hours in any workweek;
  • or all hours worked on a 6th or 7th consecutive day (*in tourism-related industries only the 7th consecutive day is an overtime day);

-The eligible employee is to be paid whichever of the three above calculations pays the employee the highest amount.

For example, if an employee who is paid $12/hr worked 5 hours a day from Monday through Saturday, such would total 30 hours of work during a workweek. The employee did not work over eight hours a day since they worked only 5 hours a day, or over 40 hours in that workweek as they worked 30 hours in the workweek. Thus, their overtime payments for those first two scenarios are zero dollars. However, they did work a sixth consecutive day, therefore the five hours they worked that day are all overtime hours and therefore they are entitled to $18/hour in overtime pay for the five hours worked on Saturday in addition to their normal wages for the work performed Monday through Friday in that workweek. Their total gross payment for that workweek would be $390.00.

The exceptions

It is important to note there are some exceptions. Not every employee our wage earner is entitled to overtime payments. Here are just a few examples of some types of employees/wage eareners who are not entitled to overtime:

  • Independent contractors
  • FLSA-exempt executives, administrative employees and other professionals who are paid a salary rather than hourly wages (see further information below)
  • Employees of certain types of seasonal recreational businesses
  • Door to door salespeople
  • Seamen or workers in the fishing industry
  • Criminal investigators
  • Employees on small farms
  • Casual babysitters

With regard to salaried workers, generally those workers must earn at least $684 per week to be exempt, and must receive the same salary each week regardless of the total number of hours they work or the quality of the work they perform. The nature of the employee’s work must be administrative (non-manual or office work related to business operations), executive (management work) or otherwise professional (requiring advanced knowledge in a field of learning or creativity) for the employee to be exempt from overtime requirements.

For more information about your responsibility as a business owner to offer overtime pay and to whom you must pay it, contact a skilled employment lawyer in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

On January 18, 2019, the United States Internal Revenue Service issued final regulations meant to address the confusion regarding whether a rental business is a “trade or business” under Internal Revenue Code Section 199A. The proposed revenue procedure provides a safe harbor election allowing rental business to be treated as a “trade or business” solely for the qualified business income deduction under Section 199A.

According to the IRS: “Section 199A of the Internal Revenue Code provides many taxpayers a deduction for qualified business income from a qualified trade or business operated directly or through a pass-through entity.”

This new deduction was added as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Pass-through entities include sole proprietorships, limited liability corporations, partnerships and S corporations. The tax for these businesses is passed through to the owner and subject to individual tax rates, which is as high as 37 percent under the TCJA. However, these business owners can now deduct up to 20 percent of their business income on their individual returns.

The IRS released Notice 2019-07 in conjunction with the final regulations offering some clarity around the safe harbor rules.

A rental business qualifies for safe harbor as long as 250 hours of rental services are performed for the business in a given time period. That time period could be: each year for tax years beginning on or before December 21, 2022, or in three of the five prior years for later tax years. Proprietors must also meet record-keeping and other procedural requirements.

The notice outlines rental services as the following:

  • Advertising to rent or lease the property
  • Negotiating and executing leases
  • Verifying information from prospective tenants
  • Collecting rent
  • Daily operation, maintenance and repair of the property
  • Real estate management
  • Purchasing materials
  • Supervising employees and independent contractors.

It is unclear whether this list is inclusive or exclusive. Arranging financing, procuring properties, reviewing financial statements, managing long-term capital improvements and traveling to and from the rental property are not considered rental services.

The notice names a wide range of persons who can perform rental services on behalf of the business, including the property owner, employees, agents and independent contractors. Property management companies should also qualify as persons who can perform rental services under this broad definition.

BoltNagi PC is a well-established and widely respected business and commercial law firm proudly serving clients in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As long as businesses continue to rely on the internet and digital technology for data storage and communication, there is going to be some risk of those systems being compromised and sensitive data being compromised. These technologies certainly aren’t going anywhere, so the onus is on business owners to do everything in their power to protect their business against these potential breaches and to keep confidential information just that—confidential.

Here are some of the steps you can take as a business owner to safeguard your private data.

  • Establish a culture of care: You must make digital security a priority in your company, and that means spreading awareness of how data breaches happen and where you might be most vulnerable. If you’re able to get your employees involved in protecting your company’s information and empower them with the tools and knowledge needed to keep that information secure, you’ll be much better off for it. Educate all your employees in the steps they can take as individuals to increase data security, such as strengthening passwords, avoiding the use of private email accounts and how to report potential threats to security.
  • Enforce strict data permissions: You should keep vital information on a “need to know” basis in your company. Only provide access to that information to people who absolutely need it for their jobs. Otherwise, the more people who have access, the easier it becomes for that data to be compromised.
  • Encrypt your data: Any sensitive information should be protected where you store it. You should use various methods of encryption to store that data as securely as possible. Text scrambling is one popular means of encryption, but there are plenty of other security methods you can use to protect your digital files and folders and even physical drives.
  • Build up your firewall: A strong firewall is one of the most important layers of protection for any network, as it prevents unauthorized access to your network and helps keep malicious software and attackers at bay. If your firewall detects programs or computers attempting to gain access to your network, it has the power to block or allow access based on the rules you’ve set for it. This means that once you’ve implemented your firewall, you must also make sure you keep up with regular updates and maintenance to ensure it will continue to be effective.
  • Strengthen login protocols: Basic password authentication is not going to do much to keep hackers away from your sensitive data. You might consider using biometrics, one-time codes, security keys or multi-factor authentication for certain types of files and systems.
  • Work with a professional: Most business owners simply do not have the knowledge or training to take full charge of their company’s digital security. If you do not have the resources to employ a full-time IT and digital security person, you should at least work with a third-party resource to manage your digital security for you as needed.

For more tips about how you can protect your business against data breaches and the steps you should take if your company does fall victim to malicious attacks on your network, contact a business attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney of BoltNagi PC, a full-service business law firm on St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands.

When engaged in a real estate transaction, it is important for both the buyer and the seller to understand that the transaction is not final until closing. There are many events that need to occur between an accepted offer and the closing, which can give rise to numerous opportunities for the transaction to fall through.

So why exactly do real estate transactions fail? Below are a few of the most common reasons.

The buyer not being able to sell their property

In many residential transactions, the deal could fall through if the potential buyer is unable to sell their home and is therefore unable to purchase the home in question. This also happens in commercial transactions, if the buyer wishes to move offices but must sell their previous premises first. If you’re the seller in a transaction and the sale is contingent on the buyer being able to sell another property, you should know there is a greater likelihood of the sale falling through than in transactions where there is not such a contingency in place.  This can often include 1031 exchange-contingent closings.

Problems with the property inspection

Most properties should go through an inspection before the transaction proceeds. The inspection period is typically within the first week or two after the seller accepts the buyer’s offer. The inspection offers the buyer an opportunity to discover any undisclosed defects in the property, including problems with mold, pests, structural issues, property damage or roof leaks.

The seller can avoid any unpleasant surprises by having the property inspected beforehand and fixing any issues the inspector finds, helping make the property more marketable.

The buyer gets turned down by their potential lender

Not every buyer gets pre-approved by a mortgage lender before purchasing a property. Even then, having a pre-approval letter is no guarantee that the buyer will actually close on their loan. Mortgage loan rejections are among the most common reasons why real estate deals often fail to close. Changes in circumstances can prompt the bank to rescind its offer to lend, including job loss and other sudden financial hardships.

Problems with the appraisal

Real estate transactions are often contingent on a satisfactory appraisal. If there are issues with the appraisal, generally the deal will have to be modified, or the bank will likely not issue the loan. The biggest issue will be if the appraised value of the property comes under the amount of money for which the buyer is requesting a loan.  In these situations, the bank may elect to reduce the loan amount or rescind its offer to lend altogether.

For more information surrounding the causes of why real estate transactions fail, and how you can avoid these potential pitfalls, contact an experienced real estate attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

J. Nash Davis is Chair of the Real Estate & Financial Services Practice Group at BoltNagi PC, a full-service business law firm on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

A new lawsuit filed by six residents of the Virgin Islands and Guam is challenging laws that prohibit territorial residents from voting for president and a Congressional representative with voting powers, according to a news release from the nonprofit civil rights group Equally American.

Plaintiffs in the Virgin Islands include Ravi Nagi and Laura Castillo Nagi, two attorneys who have raised their children on St. Thomas after moving there from Hawaii 15 years ago. Ravi Nagi is the co-founder of BoltNagi PC, one of the biggest law firms in the Virgin Islands. Laura Castillo Nagi’s practice focuses on family law, and she is also a wellness consultant and coach, according to the news release.

“In 2008, I met Barack Obama and supported his campaign to win the primary in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but I couldn’t vote for him in the general election. Yet if I instead lived in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands, or even in the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, I actually would be able to vote for president by absentee ballot in my former state of Hawaii,” said Ravi Nagi. “That’s not just absurd, but I believe it is unconstitutional.”

Laura Castillo Nagi noted that her older son will soon turn 18, at which point he will have to register for selective service, making him eligible to be drafted to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“But unlike everywhere else in the United States, this [rite] of passage will not come with him being able to vote for his commander-in-chief,” she said. “If people in the Virgin Islands have the responsibilities that come with U.S. citizenship, we should also have the rights, especially the right to vote.”

According to the news release with more than 98% of the residents of U.S. territories racial or ethnic minorities, “the continued disenfranchisement of these Americans presents an important civil rights and racial justice issue.”

“The territories also have a history of service and sacrifice to the United States, with more than 100,000 veterans currently living in U.S. territories,” the release noted. “Residents of the territories pay more than $3.5 billion a year in federal taxes, but have no say in how those tax dollars are spent.”

Further, it noted that “absentee ballots have become one of the hot-button issues of the 2020 election. However, citizens who move to certain U.S. territories are treated unequally when it comes to being able to vote for president by absentee ballot.”

Under the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act and state overseas voting laws, former state residents who are now residents of the Northern Mariana Islands or a foreign country are able to continue voting for president and voting representation in Congress by absentee ballot in their former state of residence. But the plaintiffs — each former residents of Hawaii — have lost full enjoyment of their right to vote by virtue of living in Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands, the release states.

Plaintiffs in the case are represented by attorneys Pamela Colon, an attorney in the U.S. Virgin Islands who was a plaintiff in a similar lawsuit, Segovia v. United States; TJ Quan, who grew up on Guam and now practices law in Hawaii; Vanessa Williams, an attorney on Guam; and a team of pro bono attorneys based in Washington, D.C., several of whom were involved in the previous Segovia litigation, according to the news release.

“I am honored to represent the plaintiffs in this important case after having served as a plaintiff myself in Segovia v. United States,” said Colon. “So long as we are required to follow federal law, we should have a say in what that federal law is. No one should be denied the right to vote for President or voting representation in Congress because of their Zip Code.”

Neil Weare is president and Founder of Equally American, which has been trying to make it possible for residents of U.S. territories to be able to vote in presidential elections.

“In a roller coaster year where the President and Congress are making life-and-death decisions related to COVID-19 and other critical issues, it is unjust and absurd that U.S. citizens in the territories have no voice in these fundamental issues simply because of where they live,” he said. “Where you live shouldn’t cost you the right to vote.”

While residents of U.S. territories can’t vote, those who move to a state can.

“There is now a territorial diaspora of than 5 million Americans living in the states who have ties to the territories, whether through family or having actually lived in a territory,” according to the news release. “This territorial diaspora may prove key in determining who wins the 2020 presidential election, with the territorial diaspora in key states like Florida and Pennsylvania greatly exceeding the margin of victory from 2016.”

According to the statement, more than 750,000 U.S. citizens of voting age with ties to the territories live in Florida; 340,000 in Pennsylvania; 75,000 in North Carolina; 70,000 in Georgia; 40,000 in Wisconsin and 30,000 in Arizona and Michigan.”

Ravinder S. Nagi is Assistant Managing Attorney and Chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Group at BoltNagi PC, a full-service business law firm on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.