Puerto Ricans and federal voting enfranchisement

I’ve seen a couple places mention that Puerto Ricans relocating to Florida after Maria could tip the state blue in the next federal elections. Something seems a little off there. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and so can relocate within the U.S. anytime they want, and then vote in whichever state they establish residency. Is that right?

However, Puerto Rico doesn’t have congressional representation or electoral votes. Does that mean that, for Puerto Ricans, enfranchisement is based on where they choose to live? For other American citizens, living outside the U.S. doesn’t automatically remove the right to vote. That is, we can vote while living abroad – or even in Puerto Rico. What are the laws concerning this apparent discrepancy?

So does a Puerto Rican, after living for (6 months? A year?) in Florida, then moving back to Puerto Rico, become entitled to a Florida absentee ballot for state or federal elections?

Regarding the bold portion, that’s true unless the U.S. Citizen in question establishes Puerto Rican residency. The nature of the acts, the degree of effort, and the amount of time require for this to happen varies, but I’m fairly sure that if a State resident US citizen moves to Puerto Rico and establishes domicile and other residence criteria, they’ll lose their right to absentee vote as a resident of their former State. In other words, they’ll voluntarily disenfranchise themselves.

Wiki sez:
"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 District of Columbia, the nation’s federal district. Insular areas, such as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam, are not allowed to choose electors in U.S. presidential elections or elect voting members to the U.S. Congress. This grows out of Article I and Article II of the United States Constitution, which specifically mandate that electors are to be chosen by “the People of the several States”. In 1961, the 23rd amendment to the constitution extended the right to choose electors to the District of Columbia.

Any U.S. citizen who resides in Puerto Rico (whether a Puerto Rican or not) is effectively disenfranchised at the national level. Although the Republican Party and Democratic Party chapters in Puerto Rico have selected voting delegates to the national nominating conventions participating in U.S. presidential primaries or caucuses, U.S. citizens not residing in one of the 50 states or in the District of Columbia may not vote in federal elections."

I’m not good with legal stuff though and I can’t find the relevant part of the cited case, GREGORIO IGARTÚA ET AL v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ET AL that supports wiki’s statement on the disenfranchisement of non-native(?) residents of Puerto Rico. Hopefully someone smarter can wander by and explain it to both of us.

Think of voting for Federal representatives, from House and Senate to the White House, as being a matter that is primarily dealt with as a state residency issue.

California residents who are citizens who happen to be somewhere else on Election Day can cast a vote in their home district for their representative, senator, and presidential candidates. But once that California resident establishes residency somewhere else, they can no longer vote in their California district, as it isn’t their home.

To the extent that an American living abroad maintains a residency in a state, they can keep voting for representatives of their home district. But if they are no longer residents of a state, they do not get to vote for those candidates any longer.

If a California resident moves to Puerto Rico, they can vote for the Resident Commissioner (Puerto Rico’s nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives), the governor, and all local offices; they cannot cast a ballot for any senator or presidential candidate any more.

The one minor glitch in this overall description of state residency is that DC is not a state, but the Constitution allows DC residents to vote for president, but we do not have a voting member of the House (to say nothing of the Senate).

The US Government seems to disagree with you or your statement is at best misleading:

For voting purposes, your state of legal residence is generally the state where you resided immediately before leaving the United States, even if you no longer own or rent property or intend to return in the future.

quoted from

So you get to vote even if you own no property and never intend to return. You are a “legal resident” if that’s what you mean, but all you must do is

“U.S. citizens abroad must submit a new Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) each year to vote in U.S. elections. Submit your FPCA at the beginning of the calendar year, or at least 45 days before an election, to allow ample time to process your request and resolve any problems. Once approved, your name will be put on a list of voters to receive absentee ballots.”

In some states you can vote even if you never were a legal resident as long as that was the last legal residency of one of your parents.

I meant legal residency, as opposed to owning property or whatnot. I wrote that quoted part poorly, so I apologize for any confusion. Your point that states often have different laws regarding residency is a good one too.

I also didn’t consider an interesting paradox: a Californian can generally move to China, Zimbabwe, or St Helena and still cast a vote for the US president. But if they move to Puerto Rico, Guam, or various other parts of the United States? Tough luck!

Recent, relevant court case: