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Segovia v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

January 18, 2018

Luis Segovia, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
United States of America, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued September 15, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15-cv-10196 - Joan B. Gottschall, Judge.

          Before Manion, Rovner, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          Manion, Circuit Judge.

         In this appeal, former residents of Illinois now residing in the United States territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands challenge federal and state statutes that do not allow them to obtain absentee ballots for federal elections in Illinois. Generally, federal and state law require that former residents living outside of the United States who retain their U.S. citizenship receive such ballots. But the territories where the plaintiffs now reside are considered part of the United States under the relevant statutes, while other territories are not. The anomalous result is that former Illinois residents who move to some territories can still vote in federal elections in Illinois, but the plaintiffs cannot. The plaintiffs challenge that result as violative of their equal protection rights and their right to travel protected by the Due Process Clause.

         The district court rejected their claims, holding that there was a rational basis for the inclusion of some territories but not others in the definition of the United States. With respect to the challenge to the Illinois statute, we agree with the district court. However, we conclude that plaintiffs lack standing to challenge the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) in this context. The UOCAVA does not prevent Illinois from providing the plaintiffs absentee ballots, and so it does not cause their injury. To the extent the plaintiffs are injured, it is because they are not entitled to ballots under state law. Therefore, we affirm the portion of the judgment in favor of the state defendants, but vacate the portion of the judgment in favor of the federal defendants and remand the case with instructions to dismiss that portion for want of jurisdiction.

         I. Background

         Congress enacted the UOCAVA to protect the voting rights of United States citizens who move overseas but retain their American citizenship. To do that, the law requires the States to permit "overseas voters to use absentee registration procedures and to vote by absentee ballot in general, special, primary, and runoff elections for Federal office." 52 U.S.C. § 20302(a)(1). An "overseas voter" for these purposes is "a person who resides outside the United States and (but for such residence) would be qualified to vote in the last place in which the person was domiciled before leaving the United States." Id. § 20310(5)(c). In short, federal law requires each State to provide absentee ballots to its former otherwise qualified residents who now reside outside of the United States.

         Illinois complies with this requirement. Its law provides that "[a]ny non-resident civilian citizen, otherwise qualified to vote, may make application to the election authority having jurisdiction over his precinct of former residence for a vote by mail ballot containing the Federal offices only not less than 10 days before a Federal election." 10 ILCS 5/20-2.2. Non-resident civilian citizens are United States citizens who reside "outside the territorial limits of the United States, " but previously maintained a residence in Illinois and are not registered to vote in any other State. Id. 5/20-1(4). As required under the UOCAVA, these voters need not declare any intent to return to Illinois in order to be eligible to vote. Id.

         So what's the catch? Our plaintiffs are residents of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. All three territories are considered part of the United States under both the UOCAVA and Illinois law. Federal law says the United States "means the several States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa[, ]" 52 U.S.C. § 20310(8), while Illinois law says that it includes "the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands; but does not include American Samoa, the Canal Zone, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands or any other territory or possession of the United States." 10 ILCS 5/20-1(1). The upshot is that the plaintiffs are not entitled to vote in federal elections in Illinois because they still reside within the United States. Had they moved instead to American Samoa or the Northern Mariana Islands, Illinois law would consider them to be overseas residents entitled to ballots. This distinction between the various U.S. territories gave rise to this litigation.

         The plaintiffs sued federal and Illinois officials in the Northern District of Illinois seeking declaratory and injunc-tive relief. They argued that the UOCAVA and Illinois law violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses by permitting residents of some territories to vote in federal elections but not others. The plaintiffs also contended that the statutes infringe upon their right to travel guaranteed by the Due Process Clause. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the district court granted the defendants' motions in two separate opinions. Segovia v. Bd. of Election Commrs., 201F.Supp.3d 924 (N.D. 111. 2016) (Segovia I); Segovia v. Bd. of Election Commrs., 218 F.Supp.3d 643 (N.D. 111. 2016) (Segovia II). The plaintiffs timely appealed.

         II. Analysis

         A. Standing to Challenge the UOCAVA

         Nobody doubts that the plaintiffs, who are unable to apply for absentee ballots, have suffered an injury-in-fact sufficient to confer Article III standing in this case. But, in order for us to properly exercise jurisdiction, their injury must be "fairly traceable to the challenged conduct." Hollingsworth v. Perry,133 S.Ct. 2652, 2661 (2013). The federal defendants say that the plaintiffs' injury is not traceable to the government's enforcement of the UOCAVA, but rather to the plaintiffs' inel-igibility for ballots under Illinois law. As they explain, federal law sets the floor, but Illinois is permitted to offer ballots to residents of the territories even if not required to do so by the UOCAVA. The district court rejected this argument, concluding that "Illinois is bound by the ...

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