The Silent Millions: American Citizens Who Aren’t Allowed To Vote

Published May 5, 2015
Updated September 22, 2018

Nope. Still Not Past That

Voting Rights Supreme Court

Source: Time

Believe it or not, the Insular Cases are still being cited by the government to deny basic rights to people in US territories. As of this writing, the Supreme Court is considering the case of Tuaua v. United States, in which plaintiffs from American Samoa are suing for citizenship on the very good grounds that they are the only people in the world who can be born in the United States without the the 14th Amendment’s automatic citizenship and Equal Protection clauses applying to them.

The Obama administration has assigned counsel to the case and actually had the nerve to cite the Insular Cases as justification for denying American Samoans basic rights that are enjoyed even by residents of states that once fought a war to secede from the Union.

Very Uneven Citizenship

Voting Rights Samoans

Source: FEMA

So–the US territories are all technically part of America, and we know that most of the people in them are US citizens, except for Samoans, apparently, and the case for either full statehood or at least voting rights seems pretty solid, given that the only real argument that’s ever been offered against the proposition is that they’re not white. But we might be forgiven for wondering whether these places would genuinely make good additions to the United States. Are they, in other words, “pro-America”?

Voting Rights Helmet

Okay. This checks out. Source: Department of Defense

It’s usually a bad idea to argue that this or that bit of America is more patriotic than another, if only because that kind of thing almost got Sarah Palin elected to high office. But the numbers for US territories are telling. Consider military service: During the Iraq War, the state of Vermont led the nation in per capita casualties, losing 2.5 people out of every 100,000.

That places Vermont fourth on the overall list, behind the US Virgin Islands (2.6), Northern Marianas Islands (3.7), and American Samoa, which suffered a frankly astonishing 8.6 casualties per 100,000 people.

Guam also ranked abnormally high, at sixth, with 1.78 out of 100,000. At the nadir of Army recruitment, around 2006, the recruiting station in American Samoa was practically the only one out of nearly 900 Army recruiting posts to overfill its quotas for new recruits. This, despite the fact that only around 10 percent of American Samoans have managed to get US citizenship.

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
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Stockton, Richard. "The Silent Millions: American Citizens Who Aren’t Allowed To Vote.", May 5, 2015, Accessed June 22, 2024.