US ELECTION 2020

US elections 2020: can people from Puerto Rico vote?

Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are to go head to head in November's US presidential election.

US elections 2020: can people from Puerto Rico vote?
MARIO TAMA AFP

Americans are preparing to cast their ballots in the United States’ presidential and congressional elections on 3 November - in fact, around 60 million already have.

However, the nearly 3.2 million US citizens who live on the island of Puerto Rico won’t be able to take part in the vote.

Only residents of US states and District of Columbia given vote in federal elections

That’s because, despite Puerto Ricans being granted US citizenship back in 1917, the arrangement does not give residents of the US territory the federal voting rights enjoyed by people in the 50 American states and in the District of Columbia, the only non-state that is not nationally disenfranchised.

Located around 1,600km off the coast of Florida, Puerto Rico does not have a voting representative in Congress, either. The island’s only representation on Capitol Hill is the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, who is one of six members of the House of Representatives who cannot participate in votes in the lower chamber.

Residents of the four other US territories - American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and the US Virgin Islands - are also not allowed to vote in federal elections in the country.

Puerto Rican residents can vote in presidential primaries

People in Puerto Rico can participate in the primaries in which the US’ political parties choose their presidential candidates, though.

Ahead of the 2016 election, USA Today notes, Puerto Rico was one of just three states and territories in which Florida Senator Marco Rubio beat now-President Donald Trump in the Republican primaries, accruing an overwhelming 71% of the vote compared to Trump’s 13%.

Puerto Ricans can vote if they move to US mainland

And Puerto Ricans are given the right to vote in US general elections if they become residents of the mainland, where it is estimated that just under six million now live.

Indeed, with 1.2 million in Florida alone, the 2020 presidential election has seen the campaigns run by Trump and Democrat Joe Biden target the island more than ever before, with both candidates mindful of the influence that people there can have on the voting choices of Puerto Ricans living in the battleground state.

"I’m voting for three million Puerto Ricans on the island, including my entire family,” AP was told by voter Jerick Mediavilla, who moved from Puerto Rico to the city of Orlando four years ago.

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