Veterans and Voting Rights

Howard Hills, author of Citizens Without A State, wrote a letter published in the Pacific Daily News explaining that “America is a federation of states, not of states and territories.”

“Revolutionary War veterans in [the earliest] territories didn’t have federal voting rights,” he points out. “That’s why veterans in Tennessee and Ohio territories supported statehood. Same for Spanish American War veterans in Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, WWI and WWII veterans in Alaska and Hawaii, as well as 100,000 veterans in Puerto Rico today.”

Guam’s governor recently proposed that veterans of the U.S. military living in Guam should be able to vote in presidential elections. Guam, like Puerto Rico, is a territory of the United States. Residents of Guam — and Puerto Rico — can’t vote in presidential elections, even though the President of the United States is president of all the territories as well.

Many people believe that it is wrong for veterans to be unable to vote for their Commander in Chief.

As Hills pointed out, statehood has always been the solution for this problem. Puerto Rico has a long and proud tradition of service in the U.S. military. This is a strong argument for statehood for Puerto Rico.

Is allowing veterans in territories to vote a realistic alternative? Hills says no. “America’s constitution is a shared sovereignty pact between federal and state governments. To preserve union, federal voting rights of U.S. national citizens can be exercised only by citizens eligible to vote in states.”

This has been true from the beginning. “The Northwest Ordinance of 1789 defined governments formed under territorial organic acts as ‘temporary.’ Only states have permanent status with equal voting rights,” Hills wrote. “America is a federation of states, not of states and territories. Consent of the governed is given by representation based on majority vote in each state, not a national popular majority vote.  That’s the constitutional model of freedom under law our military defends, including our patriotic fellow Americans from the territories.”

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