On March 1st I was surprised that there was no mention of the results for the Democratic primary in American Samoa, but I believe it is important to acknowledge the indirect participation of citizens from U.S. territories in the 2016 presidential election. Voting age persons from American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are not afforded the right to vote in U.S. presidential elections. For people from these islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean, participating in the Republican and Democratic nomination process is the closest they will ever come to voting for the president of the United States.
On Super Tuesday, 237 voters from American Samoa, a group of islands in the South Pacific, participated in an open caucus where Hillary Rodham Clinton won by a 42-point margin with 68% of the vote. National media must have thought that this victory is not worth mentioning since there were only 11 delegates at stake, 5 of whom are super delegates, and only a couple hundred people caucused. In the same vein Democratic voters, 189 of them, in Northern Mariana Islands gave Clinton a victory with 54% of the vote on March 22nd in a closed caucus. This added only 4 more delegates to Clinton’s total, again there were 11 delegates at stake 5 of them superdelegates. In the Northen Mariana Islands Republican caucus Trump won over the majority of 471 voter with 73% of the vote adding all of 9 delegates to his total.
Do not be fooled these elections matter! American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Virgin Islands hold a total of 46 delegates for the Democratic nomination. This is more that the number of delegates in 21 states of the union and the same amount of delegates held by the District of Columbia. These territories also have a total of 36 delegates in the Republican nomination, more delegates than 17 states. Puerto Rico on the other hand has a total of 67 delegates in the Democratic nomination, 7 of whom are superdelegates, more than the number of delegates in 27 states and the District of Columbia. Moreover, Puerto Rico has 23 delegates in the Republican nomination all of whom were won by Marco Rubio on March 6th, a win that kept him going until the loss of his home state of Florida.
Almost 39,000 Puerto Ricans went out to vote in the Republican primary las March. I expect even more to participate in the Democratic primary this coming June. In 2008 approximately 388,500 Puerto Ricans went to vote in the Democratic primary where Hillary Clinton ran against now President Barack Obama, 68% of them voted for Clinton. If the pattern persists all five territories will overwhelmingly support Clinton as the presidential nominee for the Democratic party. This will not only add to Clinton’s delegate count, but it will also signal that it is she who has the broadest appeal and support even beyond the confines of the 50 states. More importantly, participation in these electoral events show that Americans from these U.S. territories treasure democratic participation, believe that their political engagement matters for American democracy, and that whoever becomes president of the United States has the power to affect their lives.