Valencia Poll: Can Puerto Ricans Vote in U.S. Elections and What is Puerto Rico’s Relationship With The U.S.?

Puerto Rican flag outlined by the country

Samuel Schaffer

Many Americans seem to lack knowledge when it comes to Puerto Rico. From varying hurricane death counts, to a woman being berated for wearing a Puerto Rican flag shirt, Puerto Rico is clearly a source of confusion for some Americans.

According to the host of NPR’s Morning Edition, Rachel Martin, “researchers say the death toll from Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico last September, is around 5,000. That is far more than the original figure that was given of around 64.” Martin was comparing the official statement by the government that 64 people died, to a Harvard study of the death rate in the years 2016 and 2017, which found an extra 4,645 people died between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31 in 2017(when the hurricane hit).

And more recently, NOW THIS released a video of a man yelling at a woman in a park saying, “we protect Puerto Rico, we don’t own Puerto Rico.” He continues to point at her Puerto Rico flag shirt and say, “you should not be wearin’ that in the United States of America!” This all happened while a police officer stood by, ignoring the woman’s request for help.

The Valencia Voice set out to talk to students and find out what they know about Puerto Rico. They were asked two questions:

  1. Can Puerto Ricans vote in U.S. elections?
  2. What is Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States?

Their answers are below:

Can Puerto Ricans vote in U.S. elections?

“No,” says 22-year-old Political Science Major, Nicolas Morales.

“I think they should. Um, I think they can, yeah I think the can,” says Miguel Montaez, a graphic design student at Valencia.

“No, they’re citizens but they can’t vote for that, they can only vote for you know, their own country, stuff like that,” says 20-year-old biomedical science major, Marlon Gonzalez. “They’re citizens, technically but, not, I think. I forgot, I’m not sure, some complication there. They’re a territory, so not really,” Gonzalez said.

“Um, yes,” says Ariel Gibson, a 16-year-old health science major.

“Uh, maybe,” says Jake Mongin, general studies major.

21-year-old psychology major, Alicia Gomes says, “Um sure, I mean, I don’t really have strong opinions on this to begin with.”

“Yes! Um, because they’re part of the United States and they’re human beings and they have rights,” says 20-year-old health sciences major, Shekinahh Braynt.

“Currently no, but they should be able to,” says Megan Margadonna, 19-year-old general studies major.

What is Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S.?

“I thought it was just another culture that comes to America,” says Marquis Montemoino, 20-year-old exercise science major.

“They’re just, as far as I know about their relationship, they’re just a territory, a lot of people don’t know they are part of the United States,” says Montaez.

“Basically, it’s a U.S. territory, but the thing is, it’s a territory, but it’s like, it’s separate, it’s like its own thing,” says Gonzalez. “But it has, you know, it has like a really good relationship with the US, of course, because it’s a territory.”

“It’s a United States territory,” says Gibson.

“Um, I feel like it’s very close, like I feel like there’s a lot of them here,” says Gomes.

“I don’t know, I just know they’re like a part of the United States,” says Bryant.

“They’re getting no help from the U.S. government and after they went through Hurricane Maria, thousands of people died and I feel like even, like we know that thousands of people died but um, the government isn’t doing anything to help them,” says Margadonna.

Students Chelsea Barbosa and Nathaniel Carnahan contributed to this story.