One of the most common questions people ask us is, “Who is the President of Puerto Rico?”
Joe Biden is the President of Puerto Rico right now, just as he is the President of Delaware and Idaho. Since Puerto Rico is a territory under the sovereignty of and belonging to the United States, the President of the United States is also the President of Puerto Rico.
We can’t vote for our president
It’s a confusing issue for many people, though, because people living in Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections. So as our nation’s Chief Executive whoever is President executes federal law which applies in the territory, but he exercises power over people unable to give or withhold consent to his presidency.
The U.S. doesn’t have a simple, direct presidential vote. Instead, citizens in each state vote for President, but the vote determines which candidate later will be chosen by Electors representing the state. Electors from every state go after the election and vote in the Electoral College to formally and legally elect the President.
Usually, the members from each state vote for the candidate who won the most votes in that state. Some states don’t require that. The Constitution was amended to allow Washington, D.C. to send an Elector to the Electoral College, even though citizens in the nation’s capital do not have voting representation in Congress.
In other words, the people of the United States do not vote for the president as a right of national citizenship. It’s really the people of the states that vote for the president as a right of state citizenship.
States get to vote for the president
Only states get to send Presidential Electors to represent the state in the Electoral College. That means that Puerto Rico has no representatives there, and so the people living in Puerto Rico cannot vote for their President. This is true whether they were born in Puerto Rico or in a State.
Even U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico who have lived and voted in a state in the past can’t vote when they go back to Puerto Rico. Worse yet, federal law allows citizens who live in foreign countries to vote absentee in their last state of legal residence, but denies that right to U.S. citizens who change their legal residence from a state to Puerto Rico. That is even true for the U.S. military, so that when active duty soldiers and sailors and veterans have Puerto Rico as their legal residence they can’t vote for the Commander in Chief.
All citizens who live in states can vote in presidential elections. That’s true whether they were born in Puerto Rico or in a state. Being a U.S. citizen in Puerto Rico means you must abandon Puerto Rico and move to a state if you want to have equal voting rights.
In America freedom means being able to live where you want. Being forced to relocate just to have equal civil rights is a coercive form of duress, not a voluntary choice. In communist and fascist dictatorships people need the government’s permission to live, have a job and enjoy whatever freedom is allowed. In the land of the free, where you live should not determine your rights.
Today 3.2 million U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico cannot vote for their president. The solution is simple: as soon as Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state, the people of Puerto Rico will be able to vote in presidential elections.