State of Elections

William & Mary Law School | Election Law Society

Category: Puerto Rico

Territorial Voting Rights: 7th Circuit Asked to Rule on Absentee Voting by U.S. Territory Residents

By: Stephen Fellows

In September 2017 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments for Segovia v. United States.   The Plaintiffs, a group of Illinois citizens residing in Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, want the right to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections in Illinois.  They initially brought the case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  The complaint stems from Illinois’ Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which implemented the Overseas Citizens Voting Rights Act (OCVRA) of 1975.  The federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) replaced the OCVRA in 1986. The UOCAVA guarantees the right to vote by absentee ballot in federal elections to Americans, both military and civilians, residing overseas.

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Puerto Rico Might Expand the Franchise to Include Illegal Immigrants

By: Hannah Whiteker

In January of this year, Puerto Rico’s Governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, made an announcement that would be political suicide for any politician in the mainland United States. Garcia Padilla, standing beside President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic, announced a proposal to broaden the voting franchise to include every resident of Puerto Rico, regardless of legal status. It is an established fact that illegal immigrants cannot vote in U.S. elections. This is also the current law in Puerto Rico. However, Garcia Padilla expressed his opinion that since every person who chooses Puerto Rico as his or her home is affected by the decisions that the government makes,  all residents should have the right to participate in deciding who governs. So far, neither the Governor nor the members of his political party, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), has drafted a bill on this issue. However, the Governor’s proposal sparked discussions about the constitutionality of giving illegal immigrants the right to vote, particularly given Puerto Rico’s relationship with U.S.

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The Territorial American Exceptionalism to the Fundamental Right to Vote

By Ajinur Setiwaldi

Voting is one of the most fundamental rights of U.S. citizens. Congress explicitly states as much in the National Voter Registration Act. Chief Justice Warren invoked the principle when delivering the Reynolds v. Sims  opinion in 1964, stating, “undoubtedly, the right to suffrage is a fundamental matter in a free and democratic society.”

If you’re a U.S. citizen born and living in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Marina Islands, or Guam, your right to vote in federal and presidential elections is a lot less fundamental than that of citizens living on the mainland. If you’re willing to move to one of the 50 states, you can join the franchise. Even if you move to D.C., you will still have a larger say on who the next president will be than you would if you live in the territories thanks to the 23rd Amendment.

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