I watched the following video and laughed several times. (Language warning: there are a few curse words bleeped out and one off color reference after the America’s Got Talent clip). This John Oliver guy has some funny stuff. I agreed with some of the things he was saying, but there’s one glaring error in his main argument (that Americans living in Puerto Rico, Guam, etc should be allowed to vote and be represented in Congress). The problem with his argument is found in the United States Constitution, which is the supreme law of our country.
Let me quote the relevant passages from the Constitution, with some emphasis added:
Article 1 section 2: “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several STATES…”
Article 1 section 3: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each STATE,”
Article 1 section 4: “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each STATE by the Legislature thereof…”
Article 2 section 1: “Each STATE shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the STATE may be entitled in the Congress…”
Article 4 section 2: “The Citizens of each STATE shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”
Article 5: “…and that no STATE, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate”
12th amendment: “The Electors shall meet in their respective STATES, and vote by ballot for President …”
14th amendment section 2: “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several STATES according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each STATE, excluding Indians not taxed.”
16th amendment: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each STATE”
Did you notice anything? Only STATES get to vote for President. Only STATES get represented in Congress. Well, there’s one exception to this: Washington DC, which has its own amendment (the 23rd) providing for this very thing.
So no, Puerto Ricans don’t get to vote for President of the United States. People in Saipan don’t get to vote in the Senate or the House of Representatives. Why? Because they aren’t citizens of a STATE.
You know what other Americans didn’t get to vote for President? Americans living in territories that weren’t states yet, like the “Oklahoma territory,” “Iowa Territory,” Louisiana Territory.” They didn’t get to vote until they became states. That’s why “statehood” was such a big deal to the people in these territories. If these territories become states, then they get to vote. It’s that simple. In the 1844 Presidential election, not one Iowan vote was counted. Iowa became a state December 28, 1846. In the 1848 Presidential election, Iowan votes counted, because Iowa was now a state. There are people now in the United States territories that would like their homeland to become a state in the United States, but it hasn’t happened because they can’t get a majority of their neighbors to agree with them.
Guam? There is a registry of native inhabitants of Guam that requires 70% participation from the qualified inhabitants (I’m assuming they get the total number of native inhabitants from a census) before a change in their political status (from territory to state) can even be considered. As of July of last year (the most recent information I could find), they have just over 9,000 people on the registry. They need over 35,000 to hit 70%. Right now they’re at 17%. To conclude Guam’s story, the people of Guam have the means to become a state, but they are actively choosing NOT to participate in the process whereby they could even consider becoming a state
Puerto Rico? The residents of PR were given a referendum in 1998 (which means every citizen of PR got one vote) which had five options:
2. Limited self-government
3. Free association
5. None of the above.
Guess which one won. Yep, “None of the above” got 50.5% of the vote. So a majority of voting citizens of PR want everything to stay just like it is. Granted, 46.6% voted for statehood, but that’s not enough.
They held another referendum in 2012 in which the people were asked two questions:
1. Should PR continue its current territorial status?
2. Which non-territorial option do you prefer: statehood, free association, or independence?
The people of PR voted with 54% of the vote on question one being “no,” and 61.16% on question 2 being “Statehood.” So it appears they finally have a majority. I think removing the “none of the above” probably helped. I have said in the past that I believe “none of the above” should be automatically included in all elections, and if “none of the above” wins, hold a new election, with totally different candidates. Repeat until you get a good one.
But will Puerto Rico become the 51st state? Evidently there is still political fighting going on between those who want statehood and those who don’t. And do we really want the 51st state to be a state where half the citizens don’t want to be part of the United States? Why invite trouble like that? If the people of Puerto Rico had an overwhelming majority of “yes to statehood” votes (like, say over 66%), then I would be all for welcoming them into the United States, which would give them a vote in the Presidential elections, representation in Congress, and two senators.
Until that day, no vote for you!