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Roll Call

Puerto Rico Needs Voting Rights Too

By Kenneth D. McClintock

12 May 2005
Copyright © 2005 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

On May 4, you made the case for voting representation for Washington, D.C., in the House (Editorial, "Give D.C. a Vote"). You also noted that D.C. should have equal voting representation in the Senate as well. D.C. residents are not the only U.S. citizens who do not have a democratic form of government at the national level: The 4 million Americans who reside in Puerto Rico also do not have equal voting representation in the government that makes and implements their national laws.

And, unlike the case of D.C., a constitutional amendment hasn't been enacted to give us the presidential vote. Similar to D.C.'s case, though, the Constitution's Territorial Clause gives Congress broad power over Puerto Rico.

In our case, what's needed most is for the Bush administration to say whether our governor's proposal for the commonwealth to determine the application of federal laws and to enter into international agreements that states cannot - while the United States continues to grant citizenship, all current programs and free entry of goods, and appropriates an additional annual subsidy - is an option for democracy for the territory. The White House has delayed answering for more than four years.

Puerto Rico has been an American territory for 107 years, longer than any territory before being admitted into the Union. More than 200,000 of our residents have served in our nation's armed forces, even though they can't elect their commander in chief. Many have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, including 32 in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, we pay federal income taxes on nonlocal earning, as well as the hefty payroll tax. Americans residing in Puerto Rico are equally deserving of equal voting representation in our national government.

Kenneth D. McClintock


Senate of Puerto Rico

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