Palo Alto – At the end of a tumultuous election, nearly four million Americans were once again left out. That’s because Americans living in Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands do not have the right to vote for president.
This could change at least for Puerto Ricans initally with President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and the Democrats retaining a majority in the U.S. House. Some Democrats are pushing hard for Puerto Rico to become a state, which would mean residents could vote in the presidential election and gain new seats in Congress that could bolster their majority.
In a referendum on Nov. 3, a majority of Puerto Ricans said they wanted to become a state. The result could bolster efforts in Congress, where Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Rep. Nydia Velasquez (D-New York) introduced the Puerto Rico Self Determination Act of 2020. It supports a convention for Puerto Ricans to choose their political status, a move that would trigger Congressional action that could lead to a formal change that previous referenda on the island weren’t able to do.
Support is growing in Congress for the initiative. On Nov. 3, Florida Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy tweeted: “I don’t care whether Puerto Rico would be a ‘blue’ or ‘red’ state, though it would likely be a swing state. I only care that our fellow Americans seek democratic rights and equality. Congress must act.”
The prospects of this bill passing if the Senate remains controlled by Republicans are low. However, leaders from each of the U.S. territories continue to advocate for their residents to determine their political futures.
As it stands now, each territory has one elected non-voting member of Congress. Delegates from these areas also participate in the Republican National Convention and Democratic National Convention primaries.