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U.S. Territories and the Republican Contest

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, Photo by Jason P. Heym

On Saturday, three of the five U.S. territories held their caucuses for the Republican nomination. Guam, the Northern Marianas Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands each began their caucus process on March 10, and will be followed by American Samoa on March 13, and Puerto Rico on March 18. Each of these territories will award 9 delegates, except for Puerto Rico which will award 23. And given the length and contested nature of the Republican nomination thus far, these relatively obscure contests are not being taken for granted.

As noted in The Washington Post, the Romney campaign sent one of the candidate’s sons to Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands:

“The Romney campaign announced Thursday that Matt Romney, 40, will visit Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, on Friday to meet with local Republican leadership. On Saturday, Matt Romney heads about 130 miles southwest to Guam, where he will hold a morning meet-and-greet and address caucus-goers at the Sheraton Hotel in Tamuning.”

The piece goes on to say:

“Though the delegate count is relatively small, if the nomination battle becomes a long slog to the convention – and that’s entirely possible – every delegate could matter.”

The Guam Pacific Daily News also reported that Santorum and Romney were making a push for Guam. Rick Santorum called Guam political leaders to discuss issues of importance to the island nation:

“The phone conversation lasted more than an hour, instead, because Santorum wanted to hear more about Guam issues, including the plight of veterans and the military buildup.”

The five U.S. territories can select delegates for the Republican National Convention (and the Democratic one) since those contests are regulated by the parties. But they cannot participate in presidential elections because, according to the National Archives, the Electoral College system does not provide for residents of U.S. territories. The Electoral College awards electors for each state based on its membership in the U.S. Congress. Since these territories aren’t states and have only non-voting representatives in the House, they are not awarded any electors. So despite being U.S. citizens (except for residents of American Samoa who are U.S. nationals but not citizens), residents of these U.S. territories cannot vote in presidential elections. In order for the citizens of the territories to be able to vote in U.S. presidential elections, these territories would have to become U.S. states.

Date edited: 03/12/2012 (5:50AM)


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