No taxation without representation

Keegan Godwin (TheLorian)

Article 2 Section 1 of the United States Constitution states, “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.”

The second word of this section is the most important word: state. This leaves out all U.S. territories. The only exception to this is Washington D.C., which has three electoral votes through the ratification of the 23rd Amendment. But why is it that D.C., not a U.S. State, gets representation in the Presidential election but not any other of the U.S. territories?

The United States has five major territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Between these 5 territories, more than 3.5 million people reside, with roughly 3.2 million people in Puerto Rico. These territories are self-governing but live under U.S. authority.

The phrase ‘No taxation without representation’ has long rallied throughout our nation’s history. Many colonists believed that since they were not allowed any representation in the British Parliament, they should not be taxed by the government. One of the most important principals of the American Revolution was based on the idea of taxes. Now, over 200 years later, the same situation is in place.

Puerto Rico has been a United States territory since 1917. When the United States won the Spanish-American War in 1898, the U.S. acquired the island. Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship and can travel throughout the country. However, the island lacks representation throughout American government. Within the island, the government functions much like any U.S. state; there is an executive, legislative, and judicial branch. However, the head of state for Puerto Rico is the President of the United States.

If the head of state for Puerto Rico is the U.S. President, why does Puerto Rico have no say in the presidential election? The argument for statehood is a long and complicated one. That is not the argument. If a district like Washington D.C. can have three electoral votes for the President of the United States, a U.S. territory with a population of three million, a population larger than twenty states, should be able to vote for the office of the President.

If the argument of ‘no taxation without representation’ is something we as Americans still value, then Puerto Rico is no exception.

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