Beginning in 2020, Puerto Rico will hold its Democratic presidential primary vote on the last Sunday of March, not in June as it has in the past. Outgoing Governor Ricardo Rossello signed this into law hours before stepping down as governor.
There is no mystery about the goal for this change. Once Puerto Rico is early in the primaries, Rossello said, “Candidates will be forced to pay attention to our needs.”
With a large field of Democratic presidential candidates, voters will be eager to promote their candidates and to cut the weaker ones from the herd. With a March primary, Puerto Rico will have a hand in the process. By June, the candidates will have been winnowed down to a much smaller field.
Puerto Rico has primary votes
Puerto Rico has no Electors in the Electoral College, and so cannot vote in presidential elections. However, Puerto Rico does vote in presidential primaries. These are the votes in which members of each party choose their candidates.
The Republican primary is normally held in February, and that will not change.
With both primaries early in the election year, Puerto Rico will be more likely to gain national attention during the campaign.
Thus far, a handful of candidates have made a clear statement of their positions on statehood for Puerto Rico. A few more have stood up for Puerto Rico in terms of disaster funding or the debt crisis. One, Julian Castro, mentioned Puerto Rico in the Democratic Debates this summer.
Rossello has challenged Democratic 2020 candidates to commit themselves to statehood for Puerto Rico, with no wiggle room. Most have stated that they support the right of Puerto Rico to self-determination. Without recognizing the statehood votes in 2012 and 2017, which represent self-determination for the territory, these claims are hollow.