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Thursday, 10 August 2017 06:05

Guam Is Ground Zero for Nuclear Standoff, but Residents Cannot Vote for President

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guamcoatofarmsGuam is at the center of a nuclear standoff, but its US citizens cannot even vote for president. (Photo: Seal of Guam)

Guam made worldwide news on Wednesday when North Korea threatened to envelop it in fire in response to Donald Trump's threat to attack North Korea with "fire and fury." Guam is a US territory that serves as a massive military base. It has about 160,000 US residents who are American citizens. However, even though they are currently the focus of North Korea's destructive missile threats, people born on Guam are not able to vote in US presidential elections unless they move to a US state.

Thus, even though Guam may today be ground zero for a US nuclear standoff, its people have no say in electing a president who may make the decision to launch a preemptive nuclear attack on North Korea. In turn, North Korea is threatening a return nuclear strike on Guam.

According to an August 9 article in the Los Angeles Times,

It wasn't the first time the island has been on the receiving end of Pyongyang's threats. There was similarly ominous talk from North Korea in 2013, making specific note that Guam's sprawling Andersen Air Force Base, among other Pacific territories, lay within target range.

Still, many residents were worried about the unpredictability of North Korea's leader, and by the warnings of "enveloping fire" emanating from Kim's capital.

"It's kind of scary, because we don't know what this guy is capable of," Rudy Matanane, the mayor of the town of Yigo...told the Pacific Daily News. "I hope our mother country does what's right for us."

For a place only about the size of Chicago, Guam is home to a good deal of heavy firepower, with the U.S. military presence taking up nearly one-third of its territory and some 7,000 troops stationed across the island.

The Times report states that after World War II "the island became an unincorporated U.S. territory, by act of Congress."

The US/North Korean nuclear standoff should draw attention to the fact that Guam's denizens are US citizens -- but they are not allowed to vote for president, and are denied full representation in Congress. (The island has a non-voting member of the House of Representatives.) As Public Radio International notes in a report:

Four million. That's how many Americans the US Census Bureau estimates live on five island territories of the United States.

Millions of them are of voting age. Many are veterans or active military. But they cannot vote to elect their commander in chief....

People born in Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico are all Americans....

But Americans born in these territories can't vote for president. Not unless they move to the mainland.

This is in spite of the fact that they're all US citizens (except for American Samoans, who are [classified as] US nationals, not citizens).

It has taken a potential nuclear crisis to bring this significant issue to the fore -- that the US has territories where people cannot vote for the person who heads their colonizing country, and have no empowered representatives in Congress.

The US Archives and Records Administration page on the US Electoral College clearly states,

No, the Electoral College system does not provide for residents of U.S. Territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands) to vote for President. Unless citizens in U.S. Territories have official residency (domicile) in a U.S. State or the District of Columbia (and vote by absentee ballot or travel to their State to vote), they cannot vote in the presidential election....

The political parties may authorize voters in primary elections in Territories to select delegates to represent them at the political party conventions. But that process does not affect the Electoral College system.

The latter sentence explains why you see the territories represented at the two major party political conventions, but the actual vote for president is denied to citizens who reside in the territories. This is a form of ongoing colonialism that many Americans are not aware of.

An organization called We the People Project advocates for equal rights for people residing in US territories:

We the People Project fights for the day when the 5 million Americans living in U.S. territories and the District of Columbia are treated as full and equal members of We the People; in short, "Equal Rights, Wherever You Live."

The second-class treatment of Americans in the territories and DC violates our most basic democratic and constitutional principles.  Representation and the right to vote should not depend on where you live in the United States.  And contrary to the Supreme Court's controversial and outdated decisions in the Insular Cases, which established a doctrine of "separate and unequal" status for Americans in overseas territories, Congress should not have the power to turn constitutional rights on and off in U.S. territories.

The We the People Project includes Washington, DC, because although residents can now vote for president, they only have observer status in Congress and are subject to congressional oversight when it comes to municipal laws and budgetary matters.

This week's nuclear crisis with North Korea -- and the designation of Guam as a target by North Korea -- brings home the point that residents of the US's colonial territories should receive the full rights of citizens, including the right to vote for president.