Republican Primary Preview: Puerto Rico

Yahoo Contributor Network

The island territories of the United States don't get to vote in the general election for president. They don't get representation in Congress, either. But they do get a say in the nominating process. The U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and Guam all voted on March 10; the results were split, with Mitt Romney taking two and a half out of three. The exception was Rep. Ron Paul, who won the vote in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but Romney won most of the delegates. American Samoa voted three days later, and Romney won again. The final territory to head to the polls is Puerto Rico. Here's what's at stake, how the process works and the current state of the race:

* Puerto Rico has 23 delegates to the Republican National Convention. Twenty of them are up for voting on Sunday. The remaining three delegates are party leaders and are officially unpledged at the convention.

* Like many states, voters in Puerto Rico directly elect delegates. If any candidate secures 50 percent of the total vote, they win all of the delegates. Otherwise, delegates are awarded proportionally to each candidate with at least 15 percent of the total vote.

* Because delegates are directly elected, candidates had to submit a slate of delegates for the ballot. Voters will vote for twenty delegates, and may vote for an entire slate or mix their votes as they wish. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Romney all have a full slate of 20 delegates. Ron Paul has only 19.

* Turnout is expected to be high, as this is the only time Puerto Rican voters get to participate in the selection of the president. In remarks reported by New Hampshire News, John Regis, the Republican Party's finance chairman for Puerto Rico, said, "We're expecting at least 300,000 people to come out to vote. If there's a close race, the number should be a lot higher than that."

* No polls have been released on the state of the race in Puerto Rico as of this writing, but the candidates have given us some hint of the battle to come. In widely reported comments about the possibility of statehood for the longtime commonwealth, Rick Santorum first said that English would have to be the "official language", but later backtracked under criticism. In an open letter posted on his website, Mitt Romney appealed to voters frustrated at the lack of economic opportunity in Puerto Rico, and promised to " work to settle the Island's 113-year political status question," without actually endorsing either statehood or a continuation of the status quo. And Reuters reports that Romney will be on the island this weekend campaigning, while Gingrich sent his Spanish-speaking daughter on his behalf.

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