One of Mrs. Obama’s guests at the State of the Union Address Tuesday night was a Puerto Rican veteran. Sergeant Carlos Evans, USMC, born in Puerto Rico, joined the military in 2004 at the age of 24 and has been deployed four times into combat. During the last deployment, Evans was wounded so severely that he lost both legs and one hand. Like many Puerto Ricans, Evans volunteered to serve in the U.S. military.
It might therefore have been somewhat ironic that President Obama said these words:
Defending our freedom, though, is not just the job of our military alone. We must all do our part to make sure our God-given rights are protected here at home. That includes one of the most fundamental rights of a democracy, the right to vote.
Puerto Ricans living in Puerto Rico, though citizens and well represented in the military, cannot vote for the President of the United States. Nor do they have representation in the federal government: the Resident Commissioner, who is Puerto Rico’s sole representative in Congress, cannot vote.
President Obama continued:
When any American[s] — no matter where they live or what their party — are denied that right because they can’t wait for five or six or seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals. So, tonight, I’m announcing a nonpartisan commission to improve the voting experience in America.
One of the most fundamental rights of a democracy is, indeed, the right to vote. Keeping Puerto Rico in its current territorial status (the reason Puerto Ricans cannot vote) in spite of the November vote to reject that relationship is unquestionably government without consent of the governed.