July 28, 2004 – Extending the right to vote in presidential election to nearly 5 million U.S. citizens residing in the five U.S. island territories was one of the appeals made by Delegate Donna M. Christensen in her speech at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday.
Christensen, in the first speech ever by a V.I. delegate at either a Democratic or a Republican convention, drew a burst of cheers when she said the United States should be a place "where all Americans — in the states or in its offshore areas — can vote, as every other American does, for our commander-in-chief."
An early supporter of Sen. John Kerry in his bid for the Democratic nomination, Christensen called her presence at the podium "a clear indication that the Kerry-Edwards campaign is about inclusion and embracing the entire American family."
The only territorial delegate invited to speak at the Democrats' gathering in Boston, Christensen introduced a bill in the House of Representatives last week that would grant residents of the insular territories the right to vote in presidential elections, her staff aide Brian Modeste said.
In her three-minute speech, Christensen also called for protection and expansion of federal health-care initiatives "from our nation's easternmost point at St. Croix's Point Udall to its westernmost point of the same name on the Pacific Island of Guam." A physician, Christensen chairs the Health Braintrust of the Congressional Black Caucus and has worked actively in support of federal health programs, especially for minorities.
Currently, residents of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands cannot vote in presidential elections. Nor do their representatives have a vote in Congress, although as members of the House they can introduce bills and vote in committee.
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