Voting in national elections topic of Moot Court

Historic City News reporter, Raphael Cosme, attended when St Augustine played host to the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida’s “Moot Court Competition”; held in the Alcazar Room of City Hall yesterday morning.

After attending the competition session, delegates and guests participated in the 200th Anniversary ceremonies at the Constitutional Monument, and a cocktail reception at Villa Zorayda. The event concludes this morning with mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine.

“Insular areas, including Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Guam, are not allowed to choose electors in US presidential elections or elect voting members of the US Congress,” Cosme reported. “Five million United States citizens reside in the US territories — of which close to four million are residents of Puerto Rico.”

During the moot court competition, law students from the University of Florida, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Barry University and Fordham University, debated constitutional interpretations that deny US citizens in Puerto Rico congressional representation and the right to vote in national elections.

Voter disenfranchisement grows out of Articles One and Two of the United States Constitution; providing that electors are to be chosen by “the People of the several States”.

A panel of federal and state judges; Rosa Rodriguez, Sarah Zabel and Gregorio Tapia, presided over the competition.

By act of the US Congress, in 1917, Puerto Rican citizens became United States citizens.

Puerto Rico is an insular area — a United States territory that is neither a part of one of the fifty states nor a part of the nation’s federal district; the District of Columbia.

In 1961, the 23rd amendment extended the right to choose electors to the District of Columbia; the insular areas, however, were not addressed in that Amendment.

According to the event’s sponsors, the objective of the competition is to begin a national dialogue, engaging the legal and business community, in the constitutional issue of millions of Puerto Ricans on the Island who are not able to vote for the President of the United States.

Photo credits: © 2012 Historic City News contributed photograph by Raphael Cosme