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Copyright (c) 1995 The University of Chicago
The University of Chicago Legal Forum

Comment: Silent Citizens: United States Territorial Residents and the Right to Vote in Presidential Elections


Mercer Law Review

1995 U Chi Legal F 315


Amber L. Cottle *


While Congress has gone to great lengths to enfranchise millions of Americans, a large number of United States citizens continue to be excluded from the democratic process of their own country. Nearly four million 1 United States citizens residing in American territories cannot legally vote for the President and Vice President of the United States. 2

Although territorial residents have challenged this system, they have been unable to change it. The courts have expressed sympathy for the plight of territorial residents who wish to vote for the officials that govern them, but consistently have held that only a constitutional amendment can grant them the right to vote. 3

In addition, the courts have held that state residents lose their right to vote in presidential elections upon moving to one of the territories. 4 Although state residents who move overseas retain their right to vote via absentee ballot under provisions of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act ("UOCAVA"), 5 UOCAVA does not protect the voting rights of state residents who move to one of the territories. 6

Without the presidential vote, territorial residents cannot express their views through the choice of competing parties,
platforms, and policies. In short, they are shut out of the debate and decision-making process of the executive branch of the Federal Government. Since territorial residents are directly and seriously affected by these policies, it is imperative that they have a voice in the elections of those making the policies.

This Comment argues ...
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