Territories come up on Twitter roughly every two minutes, according to social media data tool Social Mention. But the tweets are not talking about the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands. Twitter mentions of territories are more likely to be about werewolves, video games, or at least Canada. Members of Congress are rarely involved in those conversations.
Recently, however, a new conversation has shown up on Twitter, with the hashtag #Fairness4Territories. Kicked off by the delegate of the United States Virgin Islands, Stacey Plaskett (D), it was apparently inspired by the Supreme Court’s refusal to review Segovia vs. U.S., a case about the inability of the residents of territories to vote in presidential elections.
Rep. Plaskett (D-VI) tweeted, “The continued disenfranchisement of U.S. residents continues to stand out as the most blatant violation of the most important civil right that Americans have: the right to vote.
She added, “American astronauts in space have a special procedure allowing them to vote, and American citizens living abroad can vote absentee, but millions of residents of U.S. territories currently cannot vote for president.
Rep. Plaskett was soon joined on Twitter by several of her colleagues:
- Alma Adams (D-NC) – “The continued disenfranchisement of U.S. residents continues to stand out as the most blatant violation of the most important civil right that Americans have: the right to vote.”
- Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) – “A year after Hurricanes Maria and Irma, it is important to recognize that the denial of voting rights in the U.S. Virgin Islands and other territories has a real-world impact on the daily lives of those who call the territories home.”
- Marcia Fudge (D-OH) – “It’s morally wrong to have federal judges and prosecutors who enforce federal law in U.S. territories who are nominated by a President U.S. citizens of these territories can’t vote for and confirmed by a Senate where citizens lack any representation….More than nine million American citizens are denied the same right to vote that they would enjoy if living in another part of the country. The government should not deny any citizen the right to vote based on where they live.”
- Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) – “9 million US citizens in Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands are denied their voting rights in presidential elections and full representation in Congress. We need
#Fairness4Territories — every citizen deserves a voice in our democracy.”
- Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) – “The continued disenfranchisement of U.S. residents continues to stand out as the most blatant violation of the most important civil right that Americans have: the right to vote”
- Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) -” A year after Hurricanes Maria & Irma, it is important to recognize that the denial of voting rights in the U.S. Virgin Islands & other territories has a real-world impact on the daily lives of those who call the territories home.”
- Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) – “The lack of democratic representation in U.S. territories violates America’s most basic values. Let’s fix that. It’s time to stop denying Americans citizens their right to vote.”
There have been quite a few retweets and a couple of responses. Jeffrey L. Farrow, a former White House aide and an expert on territorial matters, tweeted: “The right to vote is the right to equal access to the polls; it’s not a right to voting representation in the U.S. Government. The Constitution limits that right to States, with DC having votes in electing the president through a constitutional amendment.”
Chris Fagan tweeted “@StaceyPlaskett Then the Virgin Islands are going to have to become a state. It would be easier to get a simple majority in both chambers for statehood than to get 2/3 of the states to amend the US Constitution to allow territories the same privileges as states.”
Both these responses make the point that the President of the United States is elected by States, through the mechanism of the Electoral College, rather than by individual votes. U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico, for example, can vote as soon as they become residents of a State. U.S. citizens from a State lose their vote as soon as they become residents of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico has officially requested statehood, unlike the other territories belonging to the United States. The Virgin Islands held a status referendum in 1993. The voters chose to remain a territory at that time. Plaskett, the representative of the Virgin Islands in Congress, is the only representative of a territory to join in the #Fairness4Territories Twitter effort. The other Members of Congress participating represent States.