Voters in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories are not permitted to vote in the presidential election under the provisions set forth in the Electoral College. But that doesn't mean they don't have a say in who gets to the White House.
See also: Statehood for Puerto Rico Ahead?
That's because voters in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa are permitted to participate in the presidential primary and are granted delegates by the two major political parties.
In other words, Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories get to help nominate the presidential candidates. But voters there cannot actually participate in the election because of the Electoral College system.
Puerto Rico and the Electoral College
Why can't voters in Puerto Rico and the other U.S. territories help election the president of the United States? Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution makes it clear that only states can participate in the electoral process.
"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," the U.S. Constitution reads.
The Office of the Federal Register, which oversees the Electoral College, states: "The Electoral College system does not provide for residents of U.S. Territories, such as Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa to vote for President."
The only way citizens of the U.S. territories can participate in the presidential elections is if they have official residency in the United States and vote by absentee ballot or travel to their state to vote.
Puerto Rico and the Primary
Even though voters in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories can't vote in the November election, the Democratic and Republican parties allow them to select delegates to represent them at the nominating conventions.
The national Democratic Party's charter, enacted in 1974, states that Puerto Rico "shall be treated as a state containing the appropriate number of Congressional Districts." The Republican Party also allows voters in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories to participate in the nomination process.
In the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Puerto Rico had 55 delegates - more than Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, Wyoming and several other states with populations lesser than the U.S. territory's 4 million.
Four Democratic delegates went to Guam, 3 went to the Virgin Islands and American Samoa each.
In the Republican presidential primary of 2008, Puerto Rico had 20 delegates, and Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands each had 6.
What U.S. Territories Are
A territory is a land that is administered by the United States but not officially claimed by any of the 50 states or any other world nation. Most depend on the United States for defense and economic support.
Puerto Rico, for example, is a commonwealth - a self-governed, unincorporated territory of the United States. Its residents are subject to U.S. laws and pay income taxes to the U.S. government. They also have a non-voting delegate in the