Thanks to Google, we can see the questions that our visitors type in before they come to our website. “Is Puerto Rico a state?” they want to know, and “Why isn’t Puerto Rico a state?” and “What state is Puerto Rico in?” But once they get past those basics, we’re seeing a question that is becoming much more common now, in this election year.
“Can Puerto Ricans vote?” “Can Puerto Rico vote?” “Why can’t Puerto Rico vote for president?” “Why can Puerto Rico vote in US elections?” These are some of the ways that this question is phrased, and thousands of people have asked.
So here’s the answer.
U.S. citizens do not vote directly for our president. Citizens in each state vote for representatives who vote on our behalf.
Each state has electors: one for each representative in Congress and one for each Senator. At the moment, there are 538 electors. Once the people of a state have voted for president, the state determines how many electors each candidate has. Most states have a winner-take-all system: whoever had the largest number of votes gets all the electors.
There are a couple of states that divide the electors up among the candidates in proportion to the number of votes they received, but in most cases, if a candidate wins a state he or she will get the votes of all the electors of that state.
The electors for each state meet in their states in December after the November election. They cast their votes and send the information to the Congress. In January, the votes are officially counted in Congress and the Vice President of the United States (who is the President of the Senate) announces the results.
More on the Electoral College:
So it isn’t so much that Puerto Ricans can’t vote, but that Puerto Rico, having no electors, can’t vote. Puerto Rico has no electors because Puerto Rico has no voting members of Congress and no senators.
People from Puerto Rico can vote in presidential elections if they move to a state. People from states can’t vote in a presidential election if they move to Puerto Rico.
Is this right or fair? No. Citizens of a nation should be able to vote in presidential elections. They should have representation in the legislature, too, and if Puerto Rico had representation in the legislator, Puerto Rico would also have electors — and Puerto Rico could vote in the presidential election.
How can Puerto Rico get the vote? By becoming a state.