On HBO’s Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver took up the dilemma of the 4.1 million Americans who are not allowed to vote in U.S. presidential elections because they live in the island nations of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam among others.
“Yes, American citizens living in U.S. island territories do not get to vote for president,” he explained. “That’s is the kind of unsettling fact that deep down we knew but chose not to think about, like the fact that the dog from ‘Full House’ is definitely dead by now. That kind of thing.”
Oliver noted that more than 98 percent of the population of the territories are ethnic minorities, yet their voting rights are restricted despite being U.S nationals living under the American flag.
In 1901 the Supreme Court ruled — in a decision authored by Justice Henry Billings Brown who previously upheld “separate, but equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson — that the then new territories “belonged to the the United States, but were not part of the United States,” with the territories inhabited by “alien races” who might not be able to understand “Anglo-Saxon principles.”
“Wow. Alien races can’t understand Anglo-Saxon principles,” a smirking Oliver said. “I find that condescending and I’m British, we basically invented patronizing bigotry.”
Taking up the case for Guam, Oliver pointed out that one in eight citizens of Guam are U.S. military veterans — a larger percentage than in any states — yet those veterans can’t vote in the general elections for their commander-in-chief.
Oliver called it “shameful.”
“Because of their status as non-citizens,” Olver explained. “Many veterans have to carry around the humiliating reminder that they are not equal in the eyes of the law,” before showing a veteran sharing his U.S. Passport that states, “The bearer is a United States national and not a United States citizen.”
Watch the video below from Last Week Tonight: