The Puerto Rico Primary Was Huge for These 6 Reasons

While superdelegates won't actually cast their votes until the convention, thanks to Hillary's big win in Puerto Rico, she is about to clinch. Probably before California, which has the biggest number of delegates, even finishes voting.
06/07/2016 01:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017


The Puerto Rico primary matters, a lot. (Hillary Clinton/Flickr)

Yesterday Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island, held their primary.

And it was actually a very big deal. Here's why.

1. It's the only say this US territory gets in the election

Wait--Puerto Rico isn't even a state. They get to vote in a primary? Yep. Because Puerto Rico is a US territory, along with Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.


Most US territories aren't continuously inhabited, but five are, and those get to vote in presidential primaries or caucuses. (Wikipedia)

The citizens of these territories don't vote in the presidential election in November, but they do vote in the primaries. So this is the only chance they get to have a voice in this election.

The Virgin Islands voted this weekend too, on Saturday. Altogether, these five territories have 112 delegates--and Puerto Rico has the most.

2. Puerto Rico has a lot of delegates

It's a pretty small island.

But it has a lot of delegates: 67.

(Guam and the USVI each have 12, Northern Mariana Islands have 11, and American Samoa has 10.)

To put that into perspective, that's more than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Utah, Kentucky, New Mexico, both the Dakotas combined, Alaska plus Hawaii, and a bunch of other states.

That means their primary has a pretty substantial impact on the election. Numbers matter.

3. They didn't have enough polling places

PR is the newest face of voting problems that have cropped up in other states too, like Arizona, because our voting system is dysfunctional.

What happened in PR is that this beautiful island has had seriously bad economic woes. And one result is that the number of polling places was cut by about a third. There were supposed to be 1,510 polling sites for the presidential primary, but there were only 432. Resulting in long lines.

4. And there were charges of voter suppression and fraud

On top of that, there were allegations of voter fraud and voter suppression that started even before the voting did.

Interestingly, allegations of fraud and inadequate preparation are flying in all directions--including at both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.

Some of Sanders' own team did complain to the candidate himself about a lack of resources before the primary.

Before you jump to any conclusions, remember that the biggest issue here is probably that PR is broke.

5. Clinton won big in Puerto Rico


Hillary Clinton won big in the Puerto Rico primary. (Hillary Clinton/Flickr)

But still, the vote happened, and Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders pretty badly in Puerto Rico.

The final count isn't in yet, but it looks like she may have beat him about 60/40.

If she had beaten him even more soundly, she would have clinched the nomination--even before California, New Jersey, and three other states vote tomorrow in the next-to-last primary. (The last one is Washington, DC, on June 14th.)

Especially since she also won another US territory, USVI, on Saturday.

While she won't reach the magic number of delegates with pledged delegates alone, an overwhelming number of superdelegates have promised to vote for her. They don't actually vote until July 25th, and #TeamSanders hopes to sway some to vote for him instead, but that's unlikely to happen--and he'd have to sway hundreds of them to switch.

Side note: In 2008, some superdelegates switched to Barack Obama from Hillary Clinton, but that was a pretty different situation--for one thing, they were both Democrats. Until running for president, Sanders has always been an independent. So it's a stretch to expect leaders in the Democratic party to vote for a guy who has never been a Democrat, is also losing the popular vote by millions of votes, and is winning with young people but losing among key Democratic demographic groups, like African-Americans and Hispanics (as we saw in the lopsided result in PR).

6. PR put Clinton on the cusp of winning the nomination

For all intents and purposes, Puerto Rico put Clinton within shouting distance of becoming the presumptive nominee.

It's true that superdelegates haven't technically voted and won't for another six weeks. And Bernie supporters are making that very clear.

But... while superdelegates won't actually cast their votes until the convention, thanks to her big win in Puerto Rico, Clinton is about to clinch. Probably before California, which has the biggest number of delegates, even finishes voting. Because New Jersey.

Though right now she's favored to win California too.

No matter how you look at it, it's mathematically pretty much impossible for Sanders to win the nomination.

Partly because of Puerto Rico.

This article was written by Holly Epstein Ojalvo and originally appeared on Kicker. Kicker explains the most important, compelling things going on in the world and empowers you to get in the know, make up your own mind, and take action. For more, check out the Kicker site, like their Facebook page, or subscribe to their email newsletter.