House bill supports expanded rights for U.S. territories

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Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, announced his support for H.R. 1. — also known as the For the People Act.

The bill would establish a Congressional Task Force to review federal voting rights and election issues facing the U.S. territories. 

It would also require recommendations to Congress on providing American citizens living in U.S. territories with equitable voting representation in Congress, voting rights in the presidential election, and full and equal treatment under other federal voting and election laws.

“The For The People Act is a transformational clean elections reform package that protects our access to the ballot box, reduces the influence of big money in politics, strengthens ethics rules for public servants, and implements anti-corruption measures to protect our democracy,” Grijalva said. “Millions of people living in U.S. Territories have weak or limited representation in Congress despite many of them being citizens and following federal laws. It’s time to stop treating millions of Americans like second-class citizens just because of where they live. It’s anti-democratic. The For the People Act seeks to remedy this injustice. I’m grateful for my partners in securing these inclusive principles in today’s bill, and I look forward to our continued efforts to strengthen democracy and representation for these jurisdictions in the years to come.”

The act was authored by Rep. Stacey E. Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands).

“I am proud to have authored and championed the provision included in H.R. 1, For the People Act, to establish a Congressional Task Force to review federal voting rights and election issues facing the U.S. territories, and to require recommendations to Congress on providing U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. territories with equitable voting representation in Congress, voting rights in the presidential election, and full and equal treatment under other federal voting and election laws,” Plaskett said. “I hope to honor my late colleague, Congressman John Lewis, and all those who came before us by continuing to fight for our equal right to vote. The nearly four million people who live in U.S. territory are not the subjects of a king or a master. They are American citizens. While they live in America, their interests will not be fully represented within the government of the United States until they have full and equal voting rights, just like other Americans.”

Insular Affairs Vice Chair Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-CNMI) and Congressional delegate Michael San Nicolas (D-Guam) also expressed support for the bill.

“The people of the Marianas are committed to self-government through democracy, turning out to vote at the highest rates in our nation,” Sablan said. “Yet our self-government is limited, because we cannot vote for President and lack full voting representation in Congress. H.R. 1 does not solve that problem, but at least H.R. 1 acknowledges the problem exists. I look forward to the report of the Task Force on Voting Rights and its recommendations on achieving full and equal voting rights for the people of the Marianas and other non-state areas.”

San Nicolas said, ““The inclusion of an official Task Force in the Bill to study Territorial voting rights and work to enhance Territory inclusion is a Major step towards bringing along all Americans, and is most welcomed.”

The 12-member Congressional Task Force would be appointed by the Speaker of the House, the House minority leader, the Senate majority and minority leaders, and other leaders across various committees.