Can Independents Vote in The Democratic Puerto Rico Primary? It's Their Only Shot At Having Their Voices Heard
Puerto Rico's Democratic primary is coming up on June 5, an important one ahead of the last "super Tuesday" of the season. The primaries are an especially important time for voters in Puerto Rico, specifically because they don't get the chance to also vote in the general election in November, so now is the time for Puerto Ricans to make their voices heard. Because they only have their shot at making their voices heard on June 5, can independents vote in the Democratic Puerto Rico primary?
Independent voters play a hugely important role in the nominating process of this country's commander in chief, and they represent an increasingly large percentage of voters in the United States. Specifically, 40 percent of American voters currently identify as independents, and their voices are especially valuable in the primaries. The good news for Puerto Rico is that their primaries are open, meaning you don't need to declare a party affiliation to vote on June 5. In other words, yes, independents can vote in the Puerto Rico primary. However, voters must have been registered to vote by April 16 with the Comision Estatal de Elecciones, and must bring their CEE card to the polls on June 5 in order to cast a ballot.
Puerto Rico's 2016 primary was originally supposed to be held as a closed caucus, but was changed to an open primary allowing La Isla to at least have a say in the nominating process, especially since they are barred from voting in the general election. The chair of the Hispanic Caucus of the Young Democrats of America, Anthony Carillo told the Atlantic, "I served in the Army. But I don’t get to vote for the commander-in-chief. That’s not right."
Carillo explained that there is a disconnect between Puerto Rican voters and the elections happening in the United States because voters in the territory are either more focused on the local politics, or often not following the election process "because they are mostly on blogs," according to the Atlantic. Some of the key issues facing Puerto Rico this election season include the country's potential statehood, the economic struggles it faces due to its $73 billion public debt crisis — which is in no small part due to the United States — as well as the threat posed by the Zika virus.
Ahead of Sunday's primary, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is making moves to secure the win in Puerto Rico. He noted that he would be introducing a bill to help the island out of its economic disaster, stating, "We have got to make it clear to these vulture funds that they cannot have it all. The solution to Puerto Rico’s debt crisis is not more austerity. The solution is more economic development, more jobs and less poverty."
So who will Puerto Rican voters be supporting in the Democratic primary? There is no polling data available, but FiveThirtyEight projects that Hillary Clinton has a fairly high chance of winning La Isla, after winning there in 2008 by 37 percentage points, and also based on her continued Latino support base.