The State of Hawaii turns 50 this week. Owing to looming budget shortfalls in the State's budget, celebrations seem scarce around town. This fact is not lost on the Editors of the New York Times who published an editorial today discussing the relative lack of celebration planned for this anniversary.
On that note, it seemed relevant to consider some differences between states and territories (I use that term generically to capture commonwealths, possessions and other land areas affiliated with the United States).
Statehood matters. Some differences are highlighted below:
Individual rights: Around 1900, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a series of cases involving the newly acquired lands of Puerto Rico, Philippines, Hawaii and Alaska. The cases, dubbed the Insular Cases, grappled with the notion that being a state was different than any other status. As recently as 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that the full panoply of constitutional rights are not automatic in non-states. In United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, the Supreme Court stated:
The global view taken by the Court of Appeals of the application of the Constitution is also contrary to this Court's decisions in the Insular Cases, which held that not every constitutional provision applies to governmental activity even where the United States has sovereign power. See, e. g., Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922) (Sixth Amendment right to jury trial inapplicable in Puerto Rico); Ocampo v. United States, 234 U.S. 91 (1914) (Fifth Amendment grand jury provision inapplicable in Philippines); Dorr v. United States, 195 U.S. 138 (1904) (jury trial provision inapplicable in Philippines); Hawaii v. Mankichi, 190 U.S. 197 (1903) (provisions on indictment by grand jury and jury trial inapplicable in Hawaii); Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901) (Revenue Clauses of Constitution inapplicable to Puerto Rico). In Dorr, we declared the general rule that in an unincorporated territory - one not clearly destined for statehood - Congress was not required to adopt "a system of laws which shall include the right of trial by jury, and that the Constitution does not, without legislation and of its own force, carry such right to territory so situated." 195 U.S., at 149 (emphasis added). Only "fundamental" constitutional rights are guaranteed to inhabitants of those territories. Id., at 148; Balzac, supra, at 312-313; see Examining Board of Engineers, Architects and Surveyors v. Flores de Otero, 426 U.S. 572, 599 , n. 30 (1976). If that is true with respect to territories ultimately governed by Congress, respondent's claim that the protections of the Fourth Amendment extend to aliens in foreign nations is even weaker. And certainly, it is not open to us in light of the Insular Cases to endorse the [494 U.S. 259, 269] view that every constitutional provision applies wherever the United States Government exercises its power.
Plainly, the Supreme Court considers territories to being either on the path to statehood or the path to independence. Citizens of states have more rights than citizens of non-states.
Elections: Per Art. II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, states, and not citizens, elect the President. "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector."
Representation in Congress: Per Art. I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, only states can be represented in the U.S. Congress. "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature." Art. I, Section 3 has a parallel provision for the U.S. Senate. Non-states may have Delegates who lack voting power.
This is not a law review article on what laws apply to what territories. Each federal law could have its own definition of "state" which could include non-states. The Submerged Lands Act defines states as "states of the union" and it provides them title to the submerged lands adjacent to their territorial landmass. See 43 U.S.C. s. 2301.
Happy 50th Hawaii.