Part One: rebuttal
Let the straw men fly!
I will begin this post by addressing a couple of apparent misunderstandings.
AllSeeingI has apparently read my discussion of whether the Democrats or Republicans would benefit from giving the unincorporated territories
representation in the Electoral College as in some way indicative of my support for keeping them out on that basis. Nothing could be further from the
truth. I was attempting to answer as directly as I possibly could his Socratic Question about who might benefit from excluding them from this process:
the first thing that crossed my mind was that one or both of the main political parties might. I personally think it would be wonderful to break the
stranglehold the two-party system has on American politics. But giving equal representation to unincorporated territories in the Electoral College is
not a valid way to do that, even if we had proof that it could.
Similarly, he seems to have read my discussion of the historical context as an implication that I for some reason think that how a territory was
annexed should impact its right to representation in the Electoral College. I do not. I think that (as is the current situation) all states
regardless of how they first became associated with the United States should have such representation
. The areas we are discussing in this debate
are not states
and therefore are not represented in the Electoral College, nor should they be until such time as they become states
I realize that my opening post was heavy on information that may not have seemed directly relevant to the question of voting rights. I felt compelled
to provide this information in order to give a sense of context to the debate. I for one knew very little about the Insular Areas, their history,
their legal statuses, and the issues involved before I began research for this debate. I do not presume that our readers and judges will have been
aware of the complexity, and I believe it is incumbent upon us to give as much information as we can in this limited space. Also, I wished to provide
some additional information, since my opponent had specifically used the Puerto Rican case, to demonstrate why it will be insufficient in this debate
just to look at one case and assume that it is representative of all.
It is with some relief that I see my opponent agrees with me on one thing:
“[W]e are not here to debate the system of the Electoral College. … we are not here to debate the validity or methodology of the current USA
Given that fact, we must not ignore that methodology. The President of the United States is not voted into office directly by the people of the United
States: he is instead elected by the representatives
of the states
of the Union. I will assume, as my esteemed opponent seems to assume,
that the topic of this debate then is properly one of whether or not the unincorporated Insular Areas should hold elections for members to represent
them in the Electoral College.
I must disagree with my opponent when he say, “[W]e must focus on the issue of whether these people should be allowed to vote for their own
My opponent would like the focus of this debate to be primarily on the question of whether individuals have the right to vote for President; my aim in
sharpening our focus is to point out that that’s a moot point.
We do not vote for President as citizens of the United States. We vote as citizens of our states
for representatives who in turn vote for
Finally, my opponent seems to have gotten the idea that I object to the procedural hassle of adding electors to the Electoral College. Again, this is
not the issue. While I’m not sure how exactly we could apportion a representation for American Samoa (which has only 65,628 residents), I’m sure
that an arrangement could be made if it became necessary – if American Samoa became an incorporated State of the Union.
It is not any perceived structural hassles or changes to the Electoral College that I am trying to highlight. If the Insular Areas were all to vote to
become states, go through the process of negotiating statehood within their own legislature and within the federal government, and be granted full
statehood, then their citizens (like the citizens of any other state) would have the right to elect representatives to the Electoral College.
My opponent has made one truly bizarre assertion in his first reply, in regard to the terms state and dependency: “These are titles which are
essentially meaningless.” If he prefers, I will happily stick with the proper title for Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico,
and U.S. Virgin Islands, which is in fact “Insular Area” or “unincorporated territory”.
To call this distinction meaningless in the context of a debate about one of the legal differences between statehood and status as unincorporated
insular area is either disingenuous in the extreme or just uninformed.
Finally, to answer my opponent’s question to me:
#1: Why then should these lands under the USA be different in the ability to vote for US President than any of the other regions of the USA which were
acquired via similar circumstances: (eg. Land-purchase, via war, or post-war treaty agreements)?
These areas are and should be different from the incorporated States because they have not gone through the process of gaining statehood – indeed,
in a couple of instances there is no evidence that they have any interest in doing so, and in a couple any interest in doing so seems to be
overwhelmed by the desire to maintain the status quo.
Part Two: Incorporated States and Unincorporated Areas
Article II [of the United States Constitution]
Section 1. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years,
and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and
Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit
under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
Article IV [of the United States Constitution]
Section 3. New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any
other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states
concerned as well as of the Congress.
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; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.
One of the major differences between an incorporated area of the United States (including the fifty states) and an unicorporated area is in how the
Constitution applies to it. The Equal Footing Doctrine
, while not
included in the Constitution itself, has been a part of the Organic Acts for all states added to the Union. Among other things, this prevents the
individual states from discriminating against citizens of other states, ensures freedom of travel between the states, and guarantees that new states
have the same rights over their territory as other states.
The balance between federal unity and state sovereignty is one of the ongoing themes in American history. Striking an appropriate balance is often
difficult, but one of the important mechanisms in this is the electoral process. Originally, the system of electoral representatives was set up in the
Constitution as a compromise between those who feared that direct election of the President would lead to a tyranny of the majority and unfair
advantage to the most populous areas to the detriment of rural areas and those who feared that having the legislature elect the head of state would
open the process to unacceptable corruption and special-interest manipulation.
The equal footing doctrine is often viewed as guaranteeing equal protection under the Constitution, and indeed this is part of it. But it also
guarantees equal treatment – that the individual states do not have special status with respect to the federal government.
Clearly, this is of vital importance for our nation. The balance of federal vs state power would be at risk if we allowed territories both all the
rights and privileges afforded to the individual states but not the limitations on their sovereignty that the states are subjected to.
I brought up one such example in my opening: American Samoa places strict restrictions on immigration or travel from the incorporated United States.
Other unincorporated territories (or at least those in power therein) benefit from lax labor laws which would be impossible in a State in which the
full Constitution applied.
In a post-colonial world, the status of the inhabited unincorporated territories does indeed appear anachronistic and undemocratic.
However, we cannot risk our Union by extending rights to try to compensate for colonialism without demanding equal status for these areas. They should
be allowed to choose for themselves whether full incorporation with the United States is what they want – to put themselves on the path to statehood
and full enfranchisement – or whether they prefer a move towards independence.