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May 30, 2008

Territorial Issues

As you may have heard, on June 1, Puerto Rican Democrats will head to the polls to select their choice for the party's presidential nominee. The winner will get the lion's share of the 55 pledged delegates—who will undoubtedly be seated at the convention, unlike the in-limbo delegations from Michigan and Florida. But, for Puerto Ricans—who are US citizens but do not pay federal taxes and cannot vote in federal elections—that's where the 2008 campaign ends.

Hillary Clinton in Puerto Rico

Dancing for delegates

Other US territories, such as Guam and the US Virgin Islands, have already held primaries, and they will not have a say come November, either. This is because they have no electors, the real deciders in presidential elections, who are appointed by each state and the District of Columbia, as per the Constitution (and DC didn't get electors until the 23rd Amendment passed in 1961).

Is this fair? We think it depends on how you view primaries. If the goal of the primary is to ferret out the most electable candidate, then this practice seems a bit odd. However, if a primary is simply a democratic way to get all party members involved in the selection process, then it makes a bit more sense. Puerto Rican Democrats are still registered Democrats, after all.

But it still seems a bit silly that their pledged delegates have more of a voice in selecting the nominee than, say, the 52 from Oregon or the 51 from Kentucky.

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