This House of Representatives except for Puerto

This amendment allows U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, District of Columbia, and U.S. Virgin Islands to vote in the presidential elections as well as other national elections. This amendment does not intend to call into question territories citizenship status nor their birthplace, rather it accepts prior declarations on both accounts as truth and only seeks to extend suffrage to U.S. territories. This means that although territory residents hold passports reading: “The bearer is a United States National and not a United States Citizen” the above proposed amendment will still effectively give voting rights to territory residents without calling into question citizenship, as that is not the issue intended to be focused on with this bill. Issues to consider when examining U.S. territories existing rights are their current “virtual representation” as well as the adage “no taxation without representation.”.
Presently, each territory has a delegate in the House of Representatives except for Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands who have a resident commissioner. At first glance this may seem sufficient but this representation can be deemed virtual, as those delegates do not actually have any influence or ability to vote in presidential elections. According to Chicago Unbound, “The delegates have offices in the House and receive salaries and expenses equal to those of full members of the House. They are allowed to sit on certain committees, chair those committees or their subcommittees, introduce legislation, and vote in the committees and subcommittees. However, they cannot vote when the House meets in plenary session to enact a bill or approve a budget.”. Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner enjoys the same rights and privileges as the delegates, but also has no vote on the final passage of bills and budgets. In contrast, the Northern Mariana Islands actually pays for the salary and all expenses of its representative but they do have the same rights as listed above. Based on those parameters its clear the territories are given virtual representation, merely the illusion of their voices being heard. They can only vote for congressional representatives who have no substantive power. The territories current representatives are not functioning legislators for the nation but rather a small meek voice without gravitas, and having a impactful and influential say is important as the elections do effect territories as well.
U.S. territories are affected by U.S. elections as their societies and governments are inexplicitly linked with ours. This is attributable to the fact that each organized territory in one form or another is a part of an organic act. As defined by the website Revolvy, “An organic act is an act of the United States Congress that establishes a territory of the United States and specifies how it is to be governed, or an agency to manage certain federal lands.” The territories with organic acts specifically are told how to be governed by the U.S. as part of their agreement, which means our government effects theirs.
Now to address the issue of “no taxation without representation”. Notice the selective word choice in the above proposed amendment: “…territories which pay taxes…”. I specifically did not state “pay federal income tax” for two reasons. The first being the 24th amendment bars poll tax and requiring a tax to get a vote teeters dangerously close to the 24th amendments line. Secondly, territories paying federal taxes would cripple them and/or be returned in the form of government appropriates. Presently many territories do pay taxes albeit not federal income tax. According to Chicago Unbound, Puerto Rico does pay most federal taxes which American citizens pay such as payroll taxes, social security taxes, business taxes, gift taxes, and estate taxes and so on. “American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands have “mirror image” taxes whereby the residents pay their local government what they would have paid the United States had United States…”. The terminology I used includes voting rights for American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands because of the mirror image taxes they pay. I believe these tax payments are sufficient to qualify for voting rights because although they are not made to the federal government, doing so would be ineffective in executing the purpose of taxes: “The main purpose of taxation is to accumulate funds for the functioning of the government machineries.” according to the website SlideShare. This would not be accomplished with territory federal taxes as the funds received would in the end most likely be returned in the form appropriations. According to Chicago Unbound, “Full incorporation into the national tax system would extinguish the territorial governments. All of the territorial governments face large deficits and need the maximum possible tax receipts for public purposes. Per capita income in all of the territories is about one-third less than that in the poorest state and well below the United States average. To resolve these disparities, the United States has refrained from exacting taxes in the territories. If Congress were to impose federal taxes, it simply would have to return those funds to the territorial governments in the form of federal appropriations.”. Meaning at this time, full payment of federal taxes is incompatible with the social and economic progress of the territories. Perhaps in the future federal income tax for the territories will be possible, but that specific federal tax should not be the barrier to entrance for the territories to gain voting rights in the present.


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