Residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections. In the United States, presidential races aren’t decided by the popular vote. Instead, each state close electors to represent the entire state. They meet in the Electoral College and cast votes for their state, generally choosing the candidate who got the most votes in the state. More than once, the winner of the most electoral votes has not been the winner of the most votes cast by individuals.
Presidential primaries, however, are based on the popular vote. Puerto Rico holds primaries in presidential races. The next one will be in March, 2024, when the Island will hold a Republican primary and then a Democratic primary.
How does the primary work?
Puerto Rico has open primaries, so everyone can choose to vote in either the Republican or the Democratic primary. The Democratic Party, however, requires that any voter in their primary must declare him or herself a Democrat.
The Republican and Democratic parties are not the most important political parties in Puerto Rico. The important parties in Puerto Rico are The New Progressive Party, which supports statehood; the Popular Democratic Party, supporting “commonwealth”; and the Puerto Rican Independence Party, which naturally wants independence.
In Puerto Rico’s Republican primary, candidates must gain 20% of the vote to gain any representatives. The threshold for the Democratic Party is 15%. If one Republican candidate gets 50%, the race is “winner take all,” with the winning candidate getting the votes of all the delegates to the party conventions. If no candidate gets that majority, delegates are shared out among those who took the required minimum percentage of votes. This “proportional” system is used for the Democratic Party,m with no “winner take all” option.
How important are the primaries in Puerto Rico?
At the primaries, voters choose among the candidates for their own political parties — or, in this case, for the Democratic and Republican parties, even if those are not the voters’ strongest party affiliations.
The Republican Party of Puerto Rico fields 23 delegates for the convention, giving it more influence over the Republican nominee than smaller states like New Hampshire, Delaware, and Maine.
The Democratic Party of Puerto Rico has 56 delegates. That’s more than 21 of the states and Washington D.C., and an equal number to Louisiana.
This means that Puerto Rico’s primary votes are quite important in selecting the eventual candidates for the presidency. They may be particularly important in the upcoming cycle, since both parties have been focusing on the Hispanic vote. With a mostly Hispanic population, Puerto Rico could be an important bellwether for the national parties.
270 toWin is currently showing that Trump and Biden have comfortable margins to win in their respective primaries. However, it is early days for the presidential campaign. Candidates are not yet visiting Puerto Rico. When they do, they should expect that the Island’s status will be the biggest question on voters’ minds.