By: Leo Jobsis Rossignol

Thanks to recent media developments, more people are becoming aware of the bizarre fact that, in U.S. territories, citizens cannot vote for the president. However, the vote on the federal level is not the end of the story. There are many further oddities to the voting system in the territories, and we’ll take a moment to explore one of them in this post.

The United States Virgin Islands is one of those territories, and the voting system in place has undergone many changes over time. Originally, those living in the islands had no right to vote or to self-government. Before 1954, the territory was governed by two “municipal” or “colonial” councils (see §5 annotations – prior legislative bodies), one for St. Thomas and St. John, and another for St. Croix (the three main islands), with some positions held by local community leaders. Once a year, or more often if called by the federally-appointed governor, both councils would meet and pass legislation. In the U.S. Virgin Islands Revised Organic Act, passed into law that year, all citizens above the age of twenty-one were granted the right to vote in local elections for both the newly-unicameral legislature and the governor. The law also contained a provision allowing the voting age to be dropped to 18 by popular referendum, which it soon was.

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