Voice in an Asymmetric Federation? The U.S. Territories as Intergovernmental Actors

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Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

Source Publication

Regional and Federal Studies

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Original Item ID

DOI: 10.1080/13597566.2022.2053522


United States territories—home to more than 3.5 million Americans—are excluded from the safeguards of American federalism. Unlike states, they are subject to the plenary power of the U.S. Congress, lack core legal protections, and are denied meaningful political representation. As such, territories must find alternative approaches to exercising political voice in the American federal system. Yet territorial-federal relations have received virtually no empirical attention from federalism scholars. To address this gap, we examine territories’ efforts to advance their interests within both bottom-up and top-down intergovernmental councils, as well as through territory-specific advocacy. Our analysis of organizational participation, agendas, and policy outcomes suggests that territories—while denied access to traditional mechanisms of shared rule—do participate in intergovernmental relations, through a combination of bottom-up and top-down multilateral intergovernmental councils (IGCs), as well as bilateral intergovernmental lobbying. Challenges to exercising political voice vary across these institutions.


Regional and Federal Studies, (online before print). DOI.