Puerto Rican Influence Large in Presidential Nominations

By Scully, Sean | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 2, 2000 | Go to article overview

Puerto Rican Influence Large in Presidential Nominations


Scully, Sean, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The residents of Puerto Rico cannot vote in the presidential election, but they will have more influence over who is on the ballot than residents of 27 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The 3.8 million residents of the Caribbean island are U.S. citizens, but they do not pay income taxes and do not vote for president. But both parties give Puerto Ricans some representation at their national nominating conventions - 59 delegates at the Democratic convention and 14 at the Republican.

On the Democratic side, that gives Puerto Rico more influence than 27 states and the District. On the Republican side, that gives the island as much or more influence as five states and only slightly less than the District, which gets 15 delegates.

"I didn't know the Puerto Ricans had as many as they do," said Phoebe Bollin, executive director of the Wyoming Democratic Party, with a tone of resignation as she rustled through her papers to confirm the discrepancy.

"We're always at the bottom of the list," she said, noting that Wyoming has only 18 delegates at the Democratic convention. "We're last alphabetically, we're last in size . . . you have to be tough to live in Wyoming and be a Democrat."

National party spokesmen said they were unaware of any past complaints from states that lose out to Puerto Rico in influence.

"I think the important thing is that, from sea to shining sea, if you consider yourself a Republican voter, you have a voice in our convention," said Tim Fitzpatrick, spokesman for the Republican convention organizers.

Puerto Ricans "play an active part of the Republican National Committee on the national level, so it seems logical they would participate" in the convention, said Joan Quick, chairwoman of the Rhode Island Republican Party, which also sends 14 delegates to the Republican convention.

The Washington spokesman for the Puerto Rican government did not return a telephone call.

University of Maryland government professor James Gimpel said the size of the Puerto Rican delegation is probably fairly harmless - conventions are rarely so evenly split that a dozen or so votes make a difference.

But, he said, "it does seem to be an erosion of the power of states that wasn't intended to be there at the founding. At least some of the Founders would be irate if they found out about it."

Then again, there is much about the party system they might object to, because "the Founders didn't anticipate the kind of political parties we have now."

Although the parties are reluctant to say so, there are some fairly compelling practical reasons to give the Puerto Ricans influence at the conventions. …

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