U.S. Territorial Statehood: Do They Deserve Representation?


Kyle Goldstein

Why are territories with such large representations, such as Puerto Rico and D.C, not becoming states?

In 1917, Congress denied millions of U.S. citizens the right to vote, a precedent that has been upheld for generations. The United States of America is known for its equality, liberty, and freedom granted to all of its citizens. 

  However, there are many Americans outside the jurisdiction of the fifty states, living on islands in the Atlantic and Pacific. 

  Interestingly, they don’t receive the same treatment and rights as those on the mainland. America is currently in possession of five permanently inhabited territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. The District of Columbia, although within the continental United States, is also a territory.

  Most of these possessions have been in the hands of the United States for over a century, yet they have not been granted statehood, despite withholding significant populations. Puerto Rico, specifically, with over three million people, is more populous than 21 official states. This begs the question: Why are territories with such large representations, such as Puerto Rico and D.C, not becoming states? 

  Well, it might have something to do with the fact that the last U.S. territory to be added to the Union was admitted in 1959, over sixty years ago. 

  When it comes to breaking long-standing policies, such as granting statehood, altering the American flag, or changing anything people have become used to, the whole of modern America usually isn’t the most supportive. Contempt citizens are scared of change because they don’t know what downfalls will come with new decisions. 

  However, the main reason for this dilemma is based on an entirely different issue: politics.

  There’s currently a battle over which U.S. citizens are allowed representation in their federal government. Like true American patriots, politicians often use this as fuel to the raging feud of their two-party system.

  Most Democrats are for the cause and avidly push to accept territories as states, specifically D.C. and Puerto Rico. They believe that residents living in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are treated like second-class citizens. Indeed, they do not have voting representation in the House of Representatives and none in the Senate. Furthermore, all other territories, except for Washington D.C., do not receive voting rights in American presidential elections.

  Many Republicans, on the other hand, are against this idea of long-standing territories becoming fully-fledged states. They conclude that the Democrats are simply trying to one-up them in Congress, as D.C. is notoriously liberal, and Puerto Rico would most likely lean left. 

 This increase in left-wing representation would come with free seats in the House and Senate. Also, the conservatives consider Puerto Rico’s financial problems; the territory is tens of billions of dollars in debt, which would take years to resolve – most likely with taxpayer money. 

  Washington D.C. last conducted a statehood referendum in 2016, and over eighty-five percent of its residents voted in favor of admission into the Union. Similarly, Puerto Rico had one held during the 2020 Presidential election; however, only fifty-two and a half percent of its residents were in favor. 

 This has changed in recent years, as the approval rating for statehood has been as high as ninety-seven percent in 2017. Each year the amount of support varies, but the majority of votes have been for statehood in the last decade. Many question if a simple majority is enough to show that the people of Puerto Rico are for integration into the Union, or if there needs to be a large acceptance.

  Even if the people of these territories wanted to merge, is it best for the whole of America to allow them into its Union? 

 The goal of this mission is to give all Americans equal representation throughout the lands. Though, it may just be a liberal ploy to steal power and take over the government by creating new, permanent Democrat seats to Congress. Everyone has their opinions, and it is very complicated. 

 After all: This. Is. Politics.