Politics is a favorite sport on the streets of Hagatna, the place voters are getting ready for the US elections.
Billboards adorn each road nook and conversations are dominated by candidates and their insurance policies. However when Guamanians go to the polls on three November and mark down their desire for president, their “votes” received’t rely.
Regardless of being Americans, an anomaly in US regulation means the residents of the island, which lies within the Pacific Ocean eight,000 miles from Washington, don’t have any say as to who runs their nation.
They vote for an area legislature, a governor, and a delegate to the US Home of Representatives – a delegate who can’t vote – however their alternative for president, marked on the identical poll, carries no weight.
Guam’s is a straw ballot: a non-binding four-yearly train that serves merely as an early barometer for a way the remainder of the nation will vote.
Guam residents are among the many four million disenfranchised Individuals residing in US territories who can’t vote for president. And being neglected of the election stings.
“I’m deeply sad that as a US citizen previously residing on the mainland, I’ve to surrender my voting rights for president just by shifting to a different a part of the US,” James Hofman, a company lawyer who moved to Guam from California in 2006, advised The Guardian.
Guam, “the place America’s day begins” – because the island’s slogan goes – is 14 hours forward of Washington, DC.
“It might need some symbolic worth, however till there’s a direct nexus between our political will and a few reciprocal motion and engagement by DC it’s not very significant,” Hofman mentioned of the straw ballot.
Whereas they might not be as emotionally invested within the presidential election as they’re in native politics, the island’s voters don’t thoughts taking the time to select their alternative for president for what it’s price.
“When you’re already within the voting sales space, you would possibly as nicely register your opinion. What’s another oval to shade?” Tes Venzon, an accountant from Agana Heights, mentioned.
Tony Azios, spokesperson for Progressive Democrats of Guam, mentioned the presidential straw vote “quantities to little greater than a enjoyable exercise and a unusual quadrennial [news] merchandise”.
However Guam’s straw-poll has confirmed a outstanding bellwether: in each election from 1984 to 2012, Guamanians voted for the final word presidential winner. In 2016, the island backed Hillary Clinton, the winner of the favored vote.
Guam’s exclusion from nationwide elections is a political anomaly that some discover baffling, on condition that Americans residing overseas are eligible to vote by absentee poll.
“It was quite simple for me in 2008 to ship in my poll by mail whereas residing in South Korea,” Azios mentioned. “However now that I dwell in Guam, which has been part of the USA for roughly 120 years, I can’t vote. It’s absurd.”
Whereas some are consoled with Guam’s exemption from paying the federal revenue tax, many imagine such a waiver will not be commensurate to the island’s oft-repeated strategic significance to nationwide defence.
Guam, which is residence to naval and air drive bases, is called the “tip of the US navy spear,” and, with a burgeoning Chinese language presence within the Pacific, it should develop more and more geo-strategically worthwhile.
In coming years, round 5000 marines shall be relocated to Guam from Okinawa in Japan as a part of the Pentagon’s Indo-Pacific troop realignment program.
Guamanians enlist within the US navy at a better charge than any US state. One in each 20 of Guam’s 165,000 residents is a navy veteran, in line with the US census.
“So why shouldn’t we be capable of assist choose the commander-in-chief?” Azios requested.
Guam’s solely formal participation in nationwide elections are the state caucuses held by the island’s Republican and Democratic events, to decide on delegates to ship to the events’ nationwide conventions.
Guam is without doubt one of the 16 remaining colonies within the 21st century – alongside different US territories such Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and US Virgin Islands – whose representatives to the US Congress doesn’t have a voting energy.
The island’s consultant can introduce payments and push for the territory’s agenda on the congressional committee stage, however has no vote on the ground.
“I take into account myself an American and if you need my private opinion, after all I need to vote for president,” mentioned Senator Wil Castro, a Republican who’s operating for the consultant seat.
“However I’m not going to take it upon myself to imagine that each Guamanian desires to vote for president. We would need to seek the advice of the legislature and the governor earlier than pushing for a congressional agenda. It’s not for me to resolve.”
Final month, six residents of Guam and the US Virgin Islands sued the US authorities in federal court docket, difficult the territories’ exclusion from presidential elections.
“The following congress might have an historic alternative to lastly deal with the denial of voting rights to the practically four million US residents who dwell in territories,” mentioned Neil Weare, founding father of Equally American, a nonprofit group that advocates for the political rights of US territories.
“Whether or not it takes statehood or a constitutional modification, congress and the president should act to finish over 120 years of disenfranchisement.”