Equality Without Statehood?

 

The Democratic Party has completed its National Convention and settled its platform, but that platform has flaws as far as Puerto Rico is concerned. Instead of acknowledging the 2012 vote for statehood or supporting statehood, the platform puts all the territories together and calls for equality and the right to vote in presidential elections. Equality without statehood, apparently.

This is a disappointment. The Democratic Party had an opportunity to respect the vote of 2012. They had a chance to support their candidate’s position accepting that vote. They had the chance to reflect democracy by saying that people must be governed with the consent of the governed –consent withdrawn in 2012 when 54% of the voters said they no longer wanted to be a territory.

Instead, the platform includes the idea that everyone, no matter where they live, should be able to vote for the president who governs them.

This may sound nice, but it won’t work.

The people of the United States don’t vote for the president as individuals, but as states.

If you vote in U.S. presidential elections, you’ve probably had the frustrating experience of seeing your state go to the guy you didn’t vote for. If you’re a blue voter in a red state or vice versa, you pretty much know that’s going to happen. Most of the time, the candidate who wins has highest number of votes from individual voters — but not always. The states, not individual voters, choose the president.

Washington DC residents get to vote for the president, because an amendment to the Constitution of the United States made it possible for them to do so. They get to be a special case.

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Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, quoted in Citizens Without a State, a book by Howard Hills, said “A person in a U.S. territory, with national citizenship but not state citizenship, is denied the most fundamental rights in the domestic community of states.”

Hills added, “Conferral of something called ‘citizenship’ without a mechanism to acquire federal voting rights and equal representation in the federal political process is a cruel historical hoax.”

Could the President of the United States give Puerto Rico the right to vote without statehood? No. Could Congress do so? Sure. Congress gets to make all the rules about territories. It would require a constitutional amendment, but it was done for the District of Columbia and it could theoretically be done for Puerto Rico.

However, Congress can also take away the right to vote. Not from states: states have rights just as people do. Congress can’t take the rights of states away, but they can take anything away from territories. Puerto Rico used to have bankruptcy protection under Chapter 9 just like the states, but that protection was taken away. No one even remembers why. Maybe they never knew.

As a state, Puerto Rico will have the same rights as all the other states. There is no other way for Puerto Rico to gain equality within the United States.

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