General Question

ketoneus's avatar

Why do U.S. protectorates (like Puerto Rico) vote in Presidential Elections?

Asked by ketoneus (1169points) September 24th, 2007

Why do protectorates like Guam and Puerto Rico vote in national elections? They do not have representation in Congress or representatives in the electoral college. So, why do they even vote?

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19 Answers

bob's avatar

They don’t. Puerto Rico and Guam elect one non-voting delegate each to Congress. But they don’t vote in federal elections.

Guam does have a straw poll for presidential elections, but it’s doesn’t count for anything. Maybe it’s just fun for them. It probably feels just like you’re really voting!

gooch's avatar

bob is correct the electorial college is represented by al 50 states and Washington DC. They elect the President.

gailcalled's avatar

@gooch: unless Katherine Harris and a majority in the Supreme Court elect. I felt as tho I were really voting in 2004, for one brief moment, and it wasn’t fun, in hindsight.

hossman's avatar

So we should let the Florida Supreme Court elect instead?

bob's avatar

Oh boy.

gailcalled's avatar

@ Hoss: Didn’t they, de facto? Brf nswr plz.

ketoneus's avatar

Thanks for the responses. I didn’t mean to set off a political debate (however, @gailcalled, you are absolutely right).

I did a bit more research and from what I gathered, Puerto Rico does vote, but it doesn’t count for anything. There have been various contradicting decisions about this issue, but it looks like residents of the island are currently disenfranchised.

bob's avatar

hi hossman.

bob's avatar

@ketoneus: disenfranchised, yes, but they don’t pay federal income taxes. :)

hossman's avatar

Nope. The voters elected the electors to the electoral college, the electors elected the President. Ms. Harris followed the law written by the Florida legislature exactly as written. The judicial branch determined whether Florida followed its own rules in certifying the election (a much narrower issue than reviewing the election itself). The Florida Supreme Court (I read the briefs, watched the argument and read the opinion) gave, imho, a very weak decision and remedy which would have completely screwed it all up (and was contrary to law, to boot), which (I read the briefs, listened to the argument and read the opinion–949.ZPC.html ) the U.S. Supes, imho, correctly AND UNANIMOUSLY determined was unconstitutional and would make things even worse. Curious that only one court decision favored Gore, that decision is clearly the poorest of all of them, yet so many people want to insist that decision was right and all the others wrong, based on nothing. As to Ms. Harris, none of the decisions, including the Florida Supes, said she did anything wrong, but rather did what she was supposed to, follow the law the Florida legislature, not her, wrote. None of this changes the way anybody FEELS, but the process worked. I’d also point out there is no legal basis for the “we got robbed” attitude. Further, either candidate could have saved us the hassle by either candidate having carried a different state so Florida would not have made a difference. Blaming Florida is like blaming the football loss on the kicker who blows the final minute field goal, and not the three fumbles earlier in the game. Too bad the Florida Supreme Court didn’t do their job correctly and follow the law rather than writing new law, and save everyone the hassle, but everybody probably would have claimed Gov. Jeb twisted their arms. You can hardly claim that U.S. Supes panel was pro-Bush. And I’d point out Nixon, under similar circumstances, was a far better loser than Gore. As brf nswr as possible.

@ketoneus: Voting in a presidential election really wouldn’t change much for the daily lives of any of the residents of those islands, especially since they would have too few electoral votes to influence an election, if they were given the correct number of electoral votes proportionate to their population. Of course, the Democratic Party is all in favor of giving any of these territories, or the District of Columbia, electoral votes exceeding that warranted by their population, so long as they can count on the residents (as they can in D.C.) to vote Democrat.

hossman's avatar

And that was a UNANIMOUS Supreme Court, including the Democratic nominees, not a simple majority.

hossman's avatar

Hey, I must give my humble apologies to you all. Bush v. Gore was not unanimous, but 5–4 and, as gailcalled correctly said, a majority vote. I saw it was a per curiam decision, which are almost always unanimous (in fact, this is the only one I can recall not being unanimous), and failed to see or remember there were dissents (none of which were really memorable, probably because of their brevity and lack of contentiousness or nifty language). So I was wrong, and gailcalled was right. Not the first time that’s happened. I’ve got my 10 year old in the next room having a tantrum, and I wasn’t paying attention. Sorry.

gailcalled's avatar

Be still, my heart…a man who can say “I’m sorry.” Any clones at home? (And I won’t even bring up the chads and the old folks who couldn’t understand the ballots…Parts of FL are made up mainly of old folks (many of them my relatives) who couldn’t jab the chad correctly).

hossman's avatar

Yup. That doesn’t mean they were gonna vote for Gore. The Supes addressed that and decided it was impossible to determine voter intent from an inanimate object like a chad. Sometimes, those people who didn’t successfully jab the chad did so because they didn’t intend to vote for either candidate. And the old folks thing could be true anywhere. I also found interesting a few anecdotal tales of election judges permitting seniors to have someone “assist” them with the physical task of punching the chad. Hmm. . . that couldn’t possibly lead to some voter fraud. . .and the Gore side of the arguments forget there were a lot of military absentee votes that weren’t counted (likely Bush voters) because of the Florida deadline for certifying the results. That was probably what the Florida Supreme Court did that most irritated the U.S. Supes, just extending the deadline for 12 days, contrary to Florida law, for no good reason. Most of the Supes decision seems to be chastising the Florida Sup. Ct. for making it up as they went along.

I wonder if the Florida Sup. Ct. had decided pro-Bush, and no appeal was taken to the U.S. Sup. Ct., if anyone would have believed there wasn’t a Bush family conspiracy in Florida. And if Nixon had decided to challenge the close vote in his election, and was elected instead of Kennedy, wonder how things would have turned out different. Let’s see, if Nixon had been assassinated early in his first term (which was actually Kennedy’s first term) would he be revered the way JFK is today? If JFK hadn’t been assassinated, given the Bay of Pigs, Marilyn and his concealment of his health and affairs, if he had gone two terms, would we remember him differently?

bob's avatar

Isn’t it easy to see that all the votes should have been recounted, by hand, in accordance with Florida state law? I thought that was common consensus.

It was a ridiculous result to a ridiculous election.

And there was a Bush family conspiracy, by the way—not in the handling of the election, but in purging the voter roles of thousands of black votes.

Sorry to respond and inflame the thread. Flag me if you like. But this stuff makes me crazy.

When it comes down to it, the Florida vote was a tie. The election was closer than the margin of error in the voting process. All the more reason we should elect Presidents based on a country-wide plurality rather than state-by-state.

hossman's avatar

No inflamation here. Read the U.S. Supreme Court opinion. The problem with the Florida Sup. Ct. was they had not established a consensus statewide on how the ballots would be treated, and the lawyers for both Bush and Gore agreed there was no standard, but left it up to each county, which violated equal protection guarantees (and would have been a huge mess). “As seems to have been acknowledged at oral argument, the standards for accepting or rejecting contested ballots might vary not only from county to county but indeed within a single county from one recount team to another.” Bush v. Gore, 00–949. So you want the U.S. Presidential race to be determined by individual recount teams? You find that to be fair? If it made Gore President, I’m sure you would have liked it. And why would we only recount the Democratic counties? Why not the Republican counties? Why not wait for all of the military votes to come in? If the Florida Sup. Ct. had implemented a fair recount, rather than the hodgepodge mess they permitted, perhaps it could have been done in time for the U.S. Sup. Ct. to permit it. As far as I can see, the U.S. Sup. Ct. did its job in less than 4 days, while the Florida Sup. Ct. futzed around and lost a crucial three weeks between Nov. 14 and Dec. 8.

Also, Florida law clearly stated the state vote had to be certified before the electoral college met on Dec. 12. Since the U.S. Sup. Ct. decision was issued on Dec. 12, that could not be possible. Although the overall U.S. Sup. Ct. opinion was 5–4, two of the justices only disagreed on how the problem should be fixed, so the vote was actually 7–2 that what Florida was already doing to recount the votes was unconstitutional. That’s a pretty strong majority.

Florida state law DID NOT provide for the recounting of all votes by hand. And you think machines are prone to fraud? Florida law provided that the vote had to be certified by a specific date, which was done. Again, people just keep on repeating what they have been told, without actually checking the facts. Read the U.S. Sup. Ct. opinion, which really does not resort to legalese, but rather discusses the practical problems, including that the Florida Sup. Ct. failed to establish a statewide standard that ensured fairness.

And sorry, bob, but I again can’t permit you to make such broad statements without any support. Sure, there were allegations of voter fraud ON BOTH SIDES. Not one single account was found on later investigation to be credible. Perhaps you could link me to a credible source that found the “purging of thousands of black votes.” Not including the votes that were purged because they were the result of Democrats getting out the cemetery vote.

The Florida vote was not a tie. When the vote was certified, thousands of military votes had yet to be counted. And if the decision had gone the other way, you would have viewed it as a brilliant decision. I find it interesting you want each vote to be recounted by hand. Then, if Bush had won, you would have been claiming fraud in the hand recount. What did happen is clear. Only one court in the whole process found in favor of a further recount (which still didn’t mean Gore would have been president), and that is the one court you want to have had the final say. The highest court in the land said the decision was made constitutionally and legally. A court dominated by Democratic appointees. A court most Democrats loved when they made decisions with liberal results. All I see is whining from bad losers. I’m sure some of you will choose to be offended by that, but if the Supes said Gore won, you’d be telling me the same thing. Somebody has to win, somebody has to lose, the process in the long run worked. Move on.

Even if you had gotten your way, and all the votes had been recounted, BUSH STILL WON, IT WAS NOT A TIE.
The University of Chicago did a recount based on the Florida Sup. Ct. and still found Bush won.

And even that recount did not include the thousands of military absentee votes which the Democrats argued shouldn’t be counted. How nice, you can put your life at risk to protect our country, but one of the parties whose freedom you protect argues you shouldn’t count your vote. Poll after poll shows the military vote is predominately Republican and in that race, pro-Bush. It is not too difficult a logical leap to conclude those votes would have swung the vote even further to Bush.

How would a country-wide plurality change any of this? A close vote would still be a close vote. It wouldn’t make the process necessarily any clearer, but possibly make it more precise. The problem with changing to a plurality from the electoral college is it would shift some influence from rural and suburban areas in populous states with a high number of electoral votes to populous areas in less populous states with less electoral votes. Say from suburban California and Illinois to Providence, Rhode Island. This would inherently make it easier and more profitable for Democrats to reach their base, largely urban, than for Republicans to reach their base, largely suburban and rural.

Apparently, there IS about a 2% margin of error in the current state of voting technology. That wouldn’t change if we used a country-wide plurality.

bob's avatar

When I said it was a tie, I meant that the difference in votes was less than the margin of error. That’s the definition of a statistical tie.

I suppose it’s a statistical tie anyway, if there’s a 2% margin of error in voting technology. We just hope that the law of averages means that we end up doing OK.

At any rate, I have no desire to find you stories on the Florida recount. We already re-fought the last election, I’m not going back to 2000. :)

But of course, you must know that my view is that President Bush did everything in his power to prevent votes from being counted. He’s a despicable man for many reasons, but that’s got to be near the top.

hossman's avatar

Actually, Bush’s counsel argued if there were to be any recount at all, it couldn’t just be in the counties handpicked by Gore, who did in fact oppose the recounting of the military absentee vote, the counting of the military absentee votes not yet in, the recounting of votes in any counties but the three he challenged (because recounts in other counties could have taken away any margin Gore regained in the recounts of those three counties). I don’t know where you get this idea Bush tried to prevent votes from being counted. Did you read the court opinions? Did you read the appellate briefs? I have, and in every single one it is clear to me Gore wanted only certain votes recounted. If you just read the U.S. Supreme Court opinion, it clearly refers to the Bush argument that a recount would have to be of every vote in the state, including the absentee votes not yet received, in order for the recount not to violate the Equal Protection Clause. The U.S. Supreme Court decided that could not be done before the electoral college met, and thus the certification would have to stand. I don’t know where you get these justifications for your opinions, bob, but I suggest you start by reading the briefs and opinions because those are the official positions that lead to the result you wish to complain about. Try digging past the blogs and news stories you read which merely give you somebody’s third hand opinion, full of spin, and go straight to the court documents. They are all available on the internet. To summarize, Bush said recount all votes or let the legally valid certification stand, Gore said to just recount the votes he wanted. So which guy was trying to mess with the count? The one who wanted a full recount or the “admitted by both sides to be flawed” certification (which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld as both legal and constitutional), or the guy who wanted to cherry pick? I’ll tell you who wanted to steal the election, Gore did. Gore is still a poor loser, and keeps referring to it. Nixon had the decency to accept the same circumstances and not force a recount (a good place to start would have been the county in Texas that had more votes for Kennedy/Johnson than the number of registered voters in the county, but I’m sure LBJ didn’t have anything to do with that). Gore went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, winning at only one level, losing at all the others, and still whines about it. And when after the fact, they DID the recount, under the rules Gore wanted, he still lost. But if it makes y’all feel better to keep repeating the same old stuff, it isn’t gonna change the results. Fact is, most of the modern history of vote fraud has been largely Democratic. Of course, if it’s close between Clinton and Giulani (or whoever) in the next one, I’m sure you would want to extend to the Republican candidate the same sort of flexible rule-making you wanted Gore to have. As far as your definition of a statistical tie? It’s happened fairly frequently, I can think of at least four presidential elections within the margin of error, and that’s without going back and checking. And I still don’t see how switching to a country-wide majority would make any of this any better.

You know, one thing does come to mind. One of the arguments in the whole recount thing was that elderly voters were either unable to push hard enough to fully remove the chad, or were confused by the ballot. This seems to raise the question as to whether these people were mentally competent to vote. First, I don’t know why it is assume most of these elder votes would be Democratic. Second, is there any mechanism in place to prevent at least those people known to be mentally incompetent from voting? I’m betting there isn’t. Which means that any campaign running out to a nursing home to get a vanful of voters might have a pretty good opportunity to influence their vote. I have a sneaking suspicion there might be a lot of that going on.

carlosp's avatar

Technically, Puerto Rico is not a protectorate, according to Federal policy (though it may meet the definition under International Law). The Federal Government refers to it as an “insular area” that is also a Commonwealth. An insular area is a jurisdiction that is neither a part of one of the several States nor a Federal district. This is the current generic term to refer to any commonwealth, freely associated state, possession or territory. The U.S. has sovereignty over 14 such areas. Only Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands are commonwealths. The others are various flavors of territory.

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