In January of this year, Puerto Rico’s Governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, made an announcement that would be political suicide for any politician in the mainland United States. Garcia Padilla, standing beside President Danilo Medina of the Dominican Republic, announced a proposal to broaden the voting franchise to include every resident of Puerto Rico, regardless of legal status. It is an established fact that illegal immigrants cannot vote in U.S. elections. This is also the current law in Puerto Rico. However, Garcia Padilla expressed his opinion that since every person who chooses Puerto Rico as his or her home is affected by the decisions that the government makes, all residents should have the right to participate in deciding who governs. So far, neither the Governor nor the members of his political party, the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), has drafted a bill on this issue. However, the Governor’s proposal sparked discussions about the constitutionality of giving illegal immigrants the right to vote, particularly given Puerto Rico’s relationship with U.S.
Although Garcia Padilla paints a harmonious picture about inclusion and democracy, it is likely that the Governor, who is up for reelection in 2016, sees this as an opportunity to gain political support. In Puerto Rico, the largest immigrant group is from the neighboring Dominican Republic. El Nuevo Dia newspaper conservatively estimates that Garcia Padilla could gross an additional 110,000 votes in the 2016 election from undocumented Dominican residents in Puerto Rico. In the gubernatorial election of 2012, he only narrowly won by a margin of 11,000 votes, so these new voters would greatly increase his chances in 2016.