“…With Liberty and Justice for All?”

Jordon Thomas/Correspondent

Please, raise your hand if you are a US citizen. Keep your hand up if you are registered to vote. Keep your hand up if you voted in the past election. According to Aaron Steckelberg and Chiqui Esteban in the Sep. 27, 2017 issue of the Washington Post, there are over 4.4 million American citizens who do not have the right to vote in presidential elections. These are US citizens living in US territories such as Guam, North Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. These citizens pay federal taxes like Social Security and Medicare, yet they have a minimal voice in the government. They are not allowed to vote past the primary elections. They do not have a representative in the US Senate. They do not have a voting member in Congress. The ability to have and vote for representation within the US government is a right that should be afforded to every US citizen.

For many, this may be the first time hearing about this predicament. But in actuality, this debate has been going on for decades, especially when it is questioned whether or not delegates from these territories be allowed to vote in Congress. In the Jan. 11, 1993 issue of “Insight on the News,” Bruce Fein argues that “The extension of congressional voting rights to representatives of US territories is blatantly unconstitutional.” Article 2 of the US Constitution states that each STATE shall appoint an elector to vote on their behalf. Because the aforementioned territories are not considered states, this article of the Constitution blocks the ability of citizens in these territories to vote in the Presidential elections.

It is worth mentioning that the US citizens living in these territories are permitted their right to fight within the US military. In fact, 75% of the land of the often forgotten territory of Guam is utilized for military operations. And, according to Josh Hicks in the Oct. 24, 2016 issue of the Washington Post, one in eight adults in Guam serve in the US military. Valerie Woodward stated in Contemporary Pacific Volume 25 Issue 1, “The people of Guam have attempted to change the terms of their status through political and legislative channels. The United States, however, has thwarted almost all attempts through simple inaction or amnesia.” Frank Blas, Jr., a Guam Senator, even spoke about the citizens paying the ultimate sacrifice for liberties they are not even allowed to have. Guam is not the only territory contributing to the military, however. Today, there are more than 10,000 active duty military personnel from Puerto Rico across all branches of the armed forces. According to the 2010 census, there were over 15,000 US veterans, including my father, residing in the US Virgin Islands. Yet, they are still not allowed to vote for their “Commander-in-Chief.”

There is, however, one location in the US where the citizens are allowed to vote within Presidential elections, despite them not being a state. I am referring to the District of Columbia, also known as Washington D.C. Residents of DC were granted electoral votes, even though they are not an official state. It is interesting how this is allowed, but allowing US territories to vote is considered unconstitutional. Honestly, this is downright hypocritical. However, DC is also going through their own battles as they, like the other US territories, do not have a voting member of Congress or representation is the US Senate.

The most permanent solution to this problem would be amending the constitution. This amendment to the constitution will allow for the US citizens residing in the US territories to not only be able to vote in Presidential elections but also to have representation within the Senate and Congress.

 To amend the constitution, a bill will first have to be introduced within Congress. By signing a petition for this amendment, the wheels of this movement can begin turning to allow for the delegates to Congress to actually put forth the bill. As stated before, this is an ongoing debate for decades. While this seems like a simple issue as to whether or not all citizens should be given the same rights, in actuality, it requires a much more in-depth discussion. One ridiculous argument previously used to help block past legislation was the consideration of political parties within these territories. The rights  Americans should be granted regardless of political affiliations. It is asinine for this even to be considered within an argument about the rights that should be extended to the citizens of this country.

As I have stated before, there are over 4.4 million US citizens who are not given proper representation within the government. This is approximately the population of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming combined. There are more US citizens than in that of five states that currently do not have a voice. Any concerns these citizens have are just fleeting fantasies as they do not have the power or rights to do anything about it. But, you have the ability to do something about it. If everyone in this University called their delegate to Congress for Florida on behalf of this movement, the seed would be planted. Once the petition has a significant amount of signatures, the bill can be considered by an actual voting member of Congress to be brought forward to the floor.

Every citizen of America should be given the right to vote whether they live within the continental US or one of its territories. The citizens within these territories are aware of the disadvantages they face regarding representation, but they are also mindful of their lack of power to change any of this. You can ignite that change by three simple steps: 1) Calling your delegate to Congress and bringing this issue forward to them, 2) Signing the petition as a way to stand with the slighted and, 3) spreading the word about this cause so that others can do the same. Amending the Constitution may seem like an impossible and unattainable feat, but it can happen if the word is spread and you pledge your support. Think about it. It was not too long ago that African Americans were not allowed to vote in America. It was an even shorter time since women were allowed to vote. Think about it. How would you feel if you wanted to help make a difference, but because of a technicality, you were denied your right to make the difference?

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