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Puerto Rico Has No Say in This Election — And That’s a Big Problem
If you are a citizen of Puerto Rico, you may live under U.S. rule, but you have no say in the U.S. Presidential Election.
That’s right. Puerto Rican citizens live under U.S. rule, even paying taxes (save for federal income tax), but they have no say in who is elected to govern them.
A prime example of modern day colonialism, the U.S. treats Puerto Rico as though they were a nation enslaved by the U.S. government instead of a “territory.” The same goes for all other U.S. territories such as Guam, American Samoa, The Mariana Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands.
It boils down to this: if you have resources, the U.S. wants them and it will take them. The federal government will tax you, but you’ll have no way of voting to exercise your voice and attempt to channel where the tax dollars — Puerto Rican tax dollars — go.
There have been several votes to make Puerto Rico a U.S. state. Boricua voters overwhelmingly favor becoming a state, as the majority of citizens want the same rights as other U.S.-owned spaces. Anti-statehood Puerto Ricans liken their opponents’ views to Stockholm Syndrome, but both sides have strong arguments for and against.
On October 5, the United States blocked Puerto Rico’s 2.4 million registered voters, predominantly Democrats, from voting in the 2016 Presidential election.
According to ABC News, the federal government was attempting to throw out an August ruling made by U.S. District Court Judge Jaime Pieras, which found Puerto Rico residents were illegally denied the right to vote in presidential elections.
In Boston, Department of Justice attorney Matthew Colette pleaded Puerto Rico’s case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Colette argued that the “Commonwealth [of Puerto Rico] is not a state. … The citizens of Puerto Rico do not have the constitutional right to vote for the president and vice president of the United States.”
Boricua Solicitor General Gustavo Gelpi disagreed and insists that the right to vote was based “not on territory, but on citizenship.”
Gelpi cited fundamental changes to the constitution that were made during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which expanded the definition of the vote to include women, BIPOC and Black men at a time when these groups were forbidden from owning land. Prior to that, only white male property owners who paid taxes could vote. From that point on, voting became about citizenship, rather than paying taxes.
Still, the feds argued that Puerto Rico and its residents only had two options: become a state (which has been blocked by the U.S. government several times) or stay separate in the same way that the District of Columbia has with voting rights passed through a constitutional amendment.
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello’s response was that “those are two procedures; this could be a third.”
“We, under state law, will hold the presidential ballot … and we will go to whatever forum we have to go to to make sure that those votes are counted,” Rossello said, noting that Puerto Rico would have eight Electoral College votes.
Those eight votes would make Puerto Rico a louder voice in presidential elections than 25 other states with lower populations. The small but mighty island is full of mostly Democrat Latinx voices who have been stirred by the recent bigotry of Donald Trump and the Republican party.
Currently, the U.S. Senate leans more Republican than Democrat.
When you line the pieces up in such an obvious way, it’s no surprise that the U.S. government is a little frightened and intimidated by angry Latinx voices who want change. Top that off with Puerto Rico’s $72 billion dollar debt that could be dissolved in bankruptcy should the island become a state, and it’s not difficult to understand why the U.S. wants nothing to do with giving back to the country which it allows its own rich white businessmen to develop and live in tax shelters.
Our advice? Stay mad and keep pushing. If the island votes to become a state, the United States should grant that right. There are a plethora of reasons to stay independent, but if the general consensus is to be a part of the U.S., then the U.S. needs to honor that.
The next Puerto Rican gubernatorial election is coming up and the candidate, Ricardo Rosselló, is pro-statehood. “We feel statehood or the lack thereof is one of the critical root problems in Puerto Rico,” the 37-year-old scientist and son of a former governor tells the AP. Rosselló has said that he believes statehood is the best way to revive the Puerto Rican economy which has weathered a decade-long recession and is $70 billion in debt.
The candidate plans to draft a state constitution and send senators and representatives to D.C. once again to demand statehood.
“We reserve the right to use all means necessary so we can finally finish the 500-year debacle that has been colonialism,” says Rosselló.