Does American Samoa Have Electors? Some Advocates Think The U.S. Territory Deserves A Presidential Say

FORT WORTH, TX - MARCH 1: Voters line up to cast their ballots on Super Tuesday March 1, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. 13 states and American Samoa are holding presidential primary elections, with over 1400 delegates at stake. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
Source: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images News/Getty Images

As we, thankfully, approach the homestretch of the election cycle, there's been a lot of speculation about how electors from many of the swing states will vote. But what of the U.S. territories — do those residents get to voice their choice this election? Specifically, does America Samoa have electors, and if so, what does that mean for the outcome of this election? 

Unfortunately for the politically minded citizens of America Samoa who want a say in the sway of U.S. democracy, they don't get to vote in presidential elections. Since America Samoa is a territory and not a state, the people living there aren't granted U.S. citizenship.Therefore, they are not permitted to vote in presidential elections, and they have no electors to send to the Electoral College.

However, America Samoa's inability to participate in the general election doesn't exclude them from participating in the political process altogether. During the political season leading up to the general election America Samoa is able to vote in the primaries and has a total of 10 Democratic delegates, six of which are pledged delegates and four of which are superdelegates. They get nine delegates for the Republican primary. 

Because people living in America Samoa are considered American nationals and issued a U.S. passport at birth instead of citizenship, their allowance in the political process bridges a strange gap of simultaneously being included and excluded from political involvement. Considering the fact that the islands of America Samoa were colonized by the United States and that people from America Samoa enlist in the U.S. Army at the highest rates of any U.S. state or territory, the right to vote for president should be a given. Back in the March of 2015, John Oliver did a segment in which he both educated people and lamented the lack of voting and citizen rights allotted to people in America Samoa.

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After seeing the segment, Neal Weare, an attorney heading up a pro-citizenship lawsuit in conjunction with the We the People Project, said that increased visibility for the lack of citizenship benefits in U.S. territories is crucial in the fight for rights:

I think the program is a great opportunity to raise awareness throughout the country. One, that territories even exist, and (two) that the over four-million in the territories are denied the basic right to vote. Particularly given the military service in these areas, most Americans would agree that every American deserves the right to vote for president regardless where they live.

As the fight for voting rights in U.S. territories continues, it will be fascinating to see how it affects future presidential elections.


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