Imagine this: you are eligible to serve in the military -- in past wars, folks where you are from have even been drafted, made to serve in the armed forces for their country. You pay payroll, business, estate, and social security taxes. You contribute to Medicare and Medicaid. You may even pay federal income taxes if you work for the government.
You fulfill all of the responsibilities of a citizen, contributing to every facet of your country's infrastructure. But you are not allowed to vote in its most important elections.
Sign the petition if you want to see all United States territories given the right to vote on November 3rd!
Those territories are: Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. With the exception of the Northern Mariana Islands, these territories have 'belonged' to the United States for over 100 years -- remnants of past wars and purchases driven by aggressive colonialism, the practice of expansion with the goal of economic exploitation of other countries and military augmentation for itself.
These selfish, nationalist goals continue to be the driving force of how the U.S. treats its territories.
They contribute massively to the U.S. economy. In 2016, Puerto Rico's federal tax contribution was just below 4 billion dollars. In the same year, Vermont and Wyoming's federal tax came to just above 4 billion dollars. The next year, Hurricane Maria would devastate Puerto Rico. The U.S. would shockingly withhold aid, underreport death and injury on the island, and completely fail Puerto Rico as a part of the country.
These territories' military offerings are also notable. American Samoa "has the highest rate of military participation of any U.S. state or territory." They are also the only U.S. territory that the country has not extended citizenship to -- people here are "nationals." Sans citizenship, American Samoans still contribute to Medicaid and Medicare.
It is not hard to guess where these injustices are rooted. Colonialism laid strong seeds for racism, and they have flourished in the U.S. 98% of folks who live in these five U.S. territories are ethnic minorities. Many people in the 50 United States don't even know that these are their fellow citizens and that these disparities exist in their rights as such.
And the U.S. government is obviously not going to jump at the chance to give people in these territories more power, as it has made it abundantly clear that racism is not an isolated problem, but rather woven into the fabric of every system in the country. Racist gerrymandering and voter suppression have been tools of the 'democractic' process in the U.S. since elections became something in which more people than just white men were allowed to vote.
But these territories are extremely motivated and active voters! In 2014, 61% of eligible voters in American Samoa voted in their election to decide their delegate in the House -- a delegate that, it's notable to add, does not vote. None of the delegates from any of these territories are able to vote -- they have only floor privileges, as well as the ability to serve on committees. This is cold comfort for the citizens they represent. The same year that 61% of American Samoa exercised their limited right to vote, only 36.7% of U.S. citizens in the continental states showed up to vote.
It's obvious that people in these U.S. territories care about their country. It's about time that their country returned the favor.
This is the perfect time for full voting rights to be extended to these territories. The United States is on the precipice of possibly the most historic election in its history, and democracy is at stake. U.S. territories should have a say.
The Constitution clearly states: "The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States."
Sign the petition if you want to see the people of Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa given the voting rights they deserve!