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Puerto Rico Should Not Vote

Puerto Rico Should Not Vote

September 21, 2000
Copyright © 2000 U-WIRE. All Rights Reserved.
Staff Editorial, Indiana Daily Student (Indiana U.)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Most American citizens pay federal taxes, elect voting delegates to Congress and have the chance to help choose the next president of the United States in November.

The 3.9 million residents of Puerto Rico do not have these rights.

Puerto Rico receives billions of dollars in federal funding every year, but its residents do not pay federal taxes. The territory, located almost twice as far from North America as it is from South America, elects one non-voting delegate to Congress.

Last Nov. 11 residents of the territory sued the United States for the right to vote in the upcoming presidential election. So far, the courts have ruled in their favor.

U.S. District Judge Jaime Pieras Jr. last month reaffirmed his July ruling that the territory's residents should be allowed to vote in November. The ruling also stated Congress must count the eight electoral votes that would result from Puerto Ricans' ballots.

The U.S. Justice Department is appealing that ruling, which, if validated, could potentially add 2.4 million voters to the election.

In Puerto Rico , voter turnout every four years for local governor and other elections typically surpasses 80 percent.

In December of 1998, only 46.5 percent of Puerto Ricans voted to become a full-fledged state. If statehood had won, residents would have gotten the same rights as the other 50 states, including a vote in the presidential election.

That was the second time in six years statehood has been placed on a territory-wide ballot in Puerto Rico , and the second time it failed. In a 1993 vote on five options, statehood lost out to a commonwealth option by a 46.2 to 48.4 percent margin.

Puerto Rico wants a right afforded only to full U.S. citizens but isn't willing to pay all the costs.

The residents of Puerto Rico should have thought about the presidential election when casting their statehood votes in 1993 and then again in 1998.

There are reasons Puerto Rico would have difficulty becoming a state, such as its high level of poverty. Federal taxes would destroy its fragile economy.

But this debate is not whether the territory should move up to state status , but whether a territory should have the right to vote in the presidential election. The citizens of Puerto Rico decided the answer to the first question in 1998.

Until Puerto Rico is willing and able to support the U.S. government as a state in the Union, its residents should not have the right to vote in November.

Its presidential primary in the spring is enough.

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