- Maintains that Americans who live in U.S. overseas territories or in Washington DC should enjoy full voting rights and congressional representation
Established in May 2013, the We the People Project (WPP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “achieving equal rights” for the 4.7 million Americans who are “treated as second-class citizens” and “disenfranchised” because they live in a U.S. territory (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands) or the District of Columbia. Specifically, WPP complains that Americans living in these areas are denied voting representation in Congress, and that residents of the territories in particular are also denied the right to vote for U.S. President.
According to WPP, “Americans born in U.S. territories have a constitutional right to citizenship that Congress has no power under the Constitution to deny.” To promote this principle, the Project has brought forth litigation (Tuaua v. United States) on behalf of Americans born in the U.S. territory of American Samoa who are not recognized as citizens. The lead plaintiff in the case is Lene Tuaua, who was born there in 1951 and is now “challenging the constitutionality of federal statutes and policies that label him with the subordinate status of ‘non-citizen national.’”
WPP takes particular exception to the so-called “Insular Cases” which “established a doctrine of ‘separate and unequal’ status for Americans in overseas territories.” By WPP’s reckoning, “The American principle of limited government is incompatible with a doctrine that permits Congress to define for itself its constitutional limitations.”
WPP seeks to address the foregoing issues through litigation, policy work, and a variety of “organizing and communications strategies.”
The founder and board president of WPP is Neil Weare, a civil rights attorney who was raised in Guam and graduated from Yale Law School. Weare has previously worked for Guam’s non-voting Delegate Madeleine Bordallo; served as litigation counsel and Supreme Court fellow at the Constitutional Accountability Center; and clerked on the Alaska Supreme Court for Justice Morgan Christen, now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Weare is currently the lead counsel in Tuaua v. United States.