As we prepare to vote in tomorrow’s hotly contested presidential election, I know we’ll be hearing a lot about voter disenfranchisement. Hundreds of lawyers and civil rights watchdogs have been dispatched to Ohio – and all around the country – to closely monitor our voting process and cry foul the moment they note anything suspicious. And while this is essential, I’d like to take this moment to remind you that currently the U.S. Congress is willing disenfranchising the more than 2 million voters on the island of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Ricans who live on the island, along with their non-Puerto Rican neighbors, choosing to claim residency there will be banned from voting tomorrow for their own Commander in Chief. So, while we tune in to watch election coverage tomorrow, please say a prayer for your fellow American citizen not being granted your same constitutional rights. Here is an earlier blog post intended to educate you further on this injustice…

La Fortaleza (the Governor’s mansion in Puerto Rico) up for grabs in the 2012 election cycle.

As Puerto Rico hosts the Republican primary today, it’s important you know that these same American citizens will be banned from voting in the general presidential election this coming November. Puerto Ricans are legal American citizens whether they live on the mainland or the island of Puerto Rico. However, did you know that if you (ANY AMERICAN!) declare your residency on the island of Puerto Rico, you will be banned from voting for your own President of these great United States?  This ban applies to EVERY American, not just Puerto Ricans, and is simply an absurd and antiquated policy that knowingly disenfranchises more than 2 million Hispanic voters in every presidential election. Our nation’s FairVote organization agrees. “If I move anywhere in the world, I can vote absentee, but not if I move to Puerto Rico,” says FairVote executive director, Rob Richie when referencing that a declaration of residency on the island would force him to surrender his right to vote in our nation’s presidential election. “There’s a lack of attention of this issue which is that we don’t have a fundamental right to vote as stated in our constitution and there is a lot of ignorance out there about how Puerto Ricans serve and die in service of our country.”

Does it sound fair to you that Puerto Rico’s residents have been drafted to serve in our military at the same time that they couldn’t vote for their own Commander in Chief? I believe the time has come for our country to grant full voting rights to our citizens living on the island – separate and apart from the island’s upcoming referendum on statehood.

The island of Puerto Rico became part of the United States in 1898 as part of the Spanish American War. In 1917 we were granted U.S. citizenship courtesy of the Jones-Shafroth Act during President Woodrow Wilson’s administration. My ancestors were then immediately drafted to fight in World War I and we’ve stepped up to serve in every conflict since.  According to the executive director of the Center for Conservative Latino Principles and former President Bush appointee, Alfonso Aguilar, “the great irony is our country is doing the same thing to Puerto Rico that King George did to the subjects of the American colonies which was the basis for the ‘Don’t Tread on Me’” slogan leading to the American Revolution.

Because we are a polite and fiercely loyal people we didn’t ask for ESL classes when occupied by the USA and we even adopted English as the official language in 1901. Further, contrary to the major misconception, we do pay taxes. The congressman of Puerto Rico gets annoyed when responding to the worn out argument that it’s okay to ban Puerto Rican islanders from presidential voting because they don’t pay federal taxes. “I don’t buy that argument. We pay payroll taxes, while at the same time close to 50% of U.S. households on the mainland are avoiding paying taxes via earned income tax credits or because of their income levels.” Pierluisi is currently serving as Puerto Rico’s non-voting member in Congress and is supporting the pro-statehood efforts of Governor Luis Fortuno.

The island’s upcoming statehood referendum vote is scheduled for the same day our nation will select its next president. Our country’s presidential election day in November will also serve as a painful reminder to the residents of Puerto Rico that, once again – even though they’re allowed to vote in presidential primaries – they’re still banned from casting their ballot for president.

While Puerto Rico’s voter turnout rate of more than 80% is lauded as one of the highest in the western hemisphere, those living on the island will be banned from participating in the selection of their next president because the U.S. Congress has taken more than 114 years to grant these American citizens their full voting rights. Given that Hispanics are the now the country’s largest minority, the time has come for the majority to remember that actions speak louder than words and we’re watching. With all the speculation about the Hispanic votes and it’s role in choosing the nation’s next president, it seems obvious that the political party most willingly to champion this cause will be rewarded at the voting booth in November. NEWYORICANGIRL

NBC – Republican candidates campaign in Puerto Rico

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