Does Guam Have the Right Idea for Presidential Elections?

Every four years, the residents of Guam vote for the U.S. president. They’ve been doing this since 1984. It’s considered a straw poll because, as a territory, Guam can’t actually vote in presidential elections.

It’s the same for Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico have been U.S. citizens since 1917, and they can vote in presidential elections if they move to a State. People who live in Puerto Rico, even if they were born in one of the 50 States, cannot vote in presidential elections.

Neither can residents of Guam. They’re in the same position as the people of Puerto Rico. But they go ahead and cast their votes, and they have voted for the winner every time since 1984.

Why does Guam add the presidential race to their local ballots every four years? A reporter explained in 2012 that it was “to feel part of everything.” But it also makes a point.

Guam hasn’t tried to gain statehood. There was an effort to gain something like the “enhanced commonwealth” Puerto Rico’s “commonwealth” party has supported, but the U.S. government refused, just as it has refused such a status for Puerto Rico. This type of status is in conflict with the United States Constitution, and that was the response to the efforts to attain it in Guam. There have also been efforts to extend the vote to Guam (and other territories) as it was extended to the people of Washington, D.C. There is even a movement to make Guam part of Hawaii. While none of these movements has made much headway, all make the point that the people of Guam want to have the full rights and responsibilities of statehood, including the right to vote in presidential elections.

Puerto Rico, with a population larger than 28 states and acreage larger than two, has also voted for statehood. The people of Puerto Rico want to vote in presidential elections — as residents of a state. It’s time to make that happen. Funds have been set aside by the U.S. government for a referendum on status to settle Puerto Rico’s position at last.

But even though the current governor promised to hold that referendum in 2016, it doesn’t look as though it’s going to happen this year. So perhaps it’s time for Puerto Rico to follow Guam’s lead. Maybe a straw poll carrying Puerto Rico’s opinion on the next president would help make the point.

Or maybe it’s time to be more direct. Tell Congress that it’s time for statehood for Puerto Rico. Tell your local leaders that it’s time to hold that plebiscite. And make sure that Puerto Rico is ready and able to vote in the 2020 presidential elections, as the State of Puerto Rico.

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