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The Electoral College and Puerto Rico

“The Electoral College doesn’t give votes to people, only states,” CGP Grey explains in his video on the Electoral College.

The Electoral College is the reason that Puerto Ricans cannot vote for their president when they live in Puerto Rico, but can do so as soon as they move to a state. Actually, Californians also can’t vote for their president when they live in Puerto Rico. No resident of Puerto Rico can vote in a presidential election.

This is because Puerto Rico is not a state, and therefore doesn’t have any Electors. The Electors are the people who actually vote for the president. The people living in states feel as though they’re voting for their president, but they’re really sharing their views with the Electors for their state. The Electors represent the people of their state.

Each state gets three Electors automatically, and then more according to the population of the state. In most states, all the Electoral votes go to the candidate who got the majority of votes in the election. Laws vary from state to state, but most states require Electors to vote for the winning candidate. Some states divide the votes among candidates in proportion to the votes in the election in that state. Some states levy a fine on any Elector who votes for a different candidate from the state winner.

This video actually argues against the institution of the Electoral College, pointing out that it has allowed a candidate to win the popular vote but lose the presidency three times, for a 5% failure rate.

Now – with the results of the 2016 election indicating that President-elect Trump lost the popular vote – it has actually been four times rather than three. There is renewed controversy over the Electoral College, and some Americans are calling for the end of the institution or even lobbying with their Electors to change their vote. Those who favor the Electoral College point out that it gives small states a say in the election and prevents heavily populated areas from overwhelming the interests of rural areas. CGP Grey disagrees, and you can see his response in the video.

But one thing the Electoral College system certainly does is to keep the people of Puerto Rico from voting, even though they are citizens of the United States. Since states — rather than citizens — vote in the Electoral College system, the 3.3 million citizens of Puerto Rico have no say in the presidential election.

Ending the Electoral College process would open the door to voting for the United States territory of Puerto Rico.

4 thoughts on “The Electoral College and Puerto Rico”

  1. And the possibility of statehood slips away as it becomes trapped in a new type of limbo.

    And if Puerto Rico becomes a state w/o Electoral college, NO PRESIDENT or candidate WILL EVER VISIT. EVER!! Save for maybe a Natural Disaster like a Hurricane.
    Who cares about PR’S 1.5 million voters out of 3.5 M population when all you need is win CA,TX,FL,PA & NY? (Then there’s resentment & talk of secession by smaller states. Thats how some civil wars begin.)

    SO only the electoral college guarantees PR will get the candidate’s attention!

    Actually, it won’t happen for the simple fact Puerto Rico IS NOT INCORPORATED INTO THE USA. In other words, Puerto Rico BELONGS TO, but ISN’T A PART of the United States.

    1. Luis, you are right on target. The reason U.S. citizens can not vote for President is that the U.S. Constitution does not apply by its own force in an unincorporated territory. This is a court invented classification of the territory and its people under the so-called Insular Cases, which should have ceased to apply when U.S. citizenship was granted. But the 1922 ruling by the high court in the Balzac case continued unincorporated territory status and applied it to U.S. citizens in a territory governed outside the U.S. Constitution for the first time since our nation was founded. Some constitutional provisions are applied in the territory by federal territorial statute, but the provisions of the Constitution in Article I about voting representation in Congress and Article II about voting for President through the Electoral College can only apply in a State. And you are right, when Puerto Rico becomes a State, the Electoral College will give Puerto Rico more power than it would have as a State if the President were chosen by a direct vote of the majority nationwide. That would give California, New York and other voter on the coasts the power to decide the President, and it would not matter how Puerto Rico and most other States voted. The Electoral College is the glue that holds ur federation together, and abolishing it would make a less perfect instead of a more perfect nation.

    2. Agree with Mr. Arroyo 100%. For the first time in years, I see real change coming- hope to be right. I hope the new administration concentrate in making English teaching in PR a priority and stop calling PR a country and start calling it the state of PR for a change

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