dealing with the fact that we can’t vote for president in puerto rico
“Puerto Rico!? But they can’t vote in the presidential election!” Those were the first words out of a concerned neighbor’s mouth when I told her we were moving here. She was very active politically and knew that I had been too, in the past. With the contentious presidential election cycle mercifully coming to a close soon, I thought I’d tackle the question implicit in my former neighbor’s knee-jerk response:
Should you not move to Puerto Rico because you will no longer be allowed to vote for president?
Because we live here, you know what our answer is. However, I’m going to approach this touchy topic using the stoic technique of reframing, where you change your perspective of the things you cannot control. So, assuming we can’t change the current reality, are there reasons we wouldn’t want to vote, even if given permission?
Reasons not to vote
First of all, the United States is a large and diverse country. Therefore, it’s IMPOSSIBLE for any single person to truly represent each of us. We are individuals! The people who run for president have to divide and sort voters into larger groups in order to have any chance of winning. The political parties necessarily stoke animosity to the point where most ballots are cast AGAINST the candidate perceived to be worse, not FOR the other candidate. Of course, that is not how these votes will be interpreted by the winner. The bottom line is that more often than not, any candidate who can actually win, is not worth a positive vote.
Second, participating in the Presidential election is a way of giving your consent to the system. There is something to be said for withholding your vote on moral grounds. I believe in people not parties. No matter what challenges may come, individuals will continue to be resilient, evolve and thrive by spontaneously and voluntarily working together. On the other hand, politics is rooted in coercion; the majority forcing it’s will on the minority. Personally, I want no part in that. Thankfully, as the trend towards decentralization accelerates, distant political parties will become increasingly irrelevant.
Third, not being able to vote in the Presidential election insulates Puerto Ricans, to some extent, from having to deal with the IRS and Affordable Care Act. I discussed taxes in another post so I won’t go there here. Concerning medical care, a freelancer who moved from Puerto Rico to the states recently told me, he now has to pay upwards of $800 a month for medical insurance to cover his family! As mandatory insurance premiums continue to soar stateside, it becomes more and more challenging for those who want to leave a job so they can start a small business. I am aware of the argument that as a state, Puerto Rico would receive more money for Federal programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and SNAP. Nevertheless, does it really make sense to increase dependence on a “rich” uncle who is nearly 20 trillion dollars in debt?
I could go on, but I will stop before I step on any more toes. Just in case it wasn’t clear, Puerto Ricans CAN and do participate in local elections where a single vote will count for a lot more than it would in a national election. The local mayoral candidates have had their speaker trucks blaring through town for months now and the street corners are filled with political banners.
A couple of interesting tidbits I learned is that Election Day here is a national holiday. Even the boys’ martial arts class next Tuesday is cancelled. Also, sales of alcohol are prohibited on Election day, so you better stock up beforehand if you think you will be crying in your beer as the results roll in. ;)
Again, not being able to vote in the presidential election is just one factor out of many. If you find yourself torn between a love of Puerto Rico and a concern about not being able to cast your ballot for president, hopefully you will find the thoughts above helpful as you make your decision.