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Voting Rights in the U.S. Territories Today

In addition to the 50 states and Washington, D.C., the United States governs more than a dozen island territories Pieces of land owned by the United States that are not states and are administered by an appointed or elected governor and elected legislature.

Setting the Stage

The U.S. acquired these territories because they were considered important for national security and economic purposes.  Many are not permanently inhabited, but five — Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands — have a total of about 4.1 million permanent residents. This is roughly equivalent to the population of Kentucky. Puerto Rico alone has 3.7 million people, a higher population than 22 of the 50 States.


Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories (HBO)

In a satirical piece by the comedian John Oliver, he describes how outdated legislation continues to disenfranchise millions of people who contribute to the American economy and serve in the military.

(May not be suitable for young audiences).