Even though they are U.S. citizens, U.S. Virgin Islands residents cannot vote in presidential elections. U.S. Virgin Islands residents, however, are able to vote in presidential primary elections for delegates to the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention.
The main political parties in the U.S. Virgin Islands are the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, the Independent Citizens Movement, and the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands. Additional candidates run as independents.
At the national level, the U.S. Virgin Islands elects a delegate to Congress from its at-large congressional district. However, the elected delegate, while able to vote in committee, cannot participate in floor votes. The current House of Representatives delegate is Donna Christensen (D).
At the territorial level, 15 senators—seven from the district of Saint Croix, seven from the district of Saint Thomas and Saint John, and one senator at-large who must be a resident of Saint John—are elected for two-year terms to the unicameral Virgin Islands Legislature.
The U.S. Virgin Islands has elected a territorial governor every four years since 1970. Previous governors were appointed by the President of the United States.
The U.S. Virgin Islands has a District Court, Superior Court and the Supreme Court. The District Court is responsible for federal law, while the Superior Court is responsible for U.S. Virgin Islands law at the trial level and the Supreme Court is responsible for appeals from the Superior Court for all appeals filed on or after January 29, 2007. Appeals filed prior to that date are heard by the Appellate Division of the District Court. Appeals from the federal District Court are heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. District Court judges are appointed by the President, while Superior Court and Supreme Court judges are appointed by the Governor.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are part of the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. A 1993 referendum on status attracted only 31.4 percent turnout, and so its results (in favor of status quo) were considered void. No further referenda have been scheduled since.
In 2004, the 25th legislature established the Fifth Constitutional Convention. In June 2009, Governor John deJongh, Jr. rejected the resulting draft constitution, saying that the document "violates federal law, fails to defer to federal sovereignty and disregards basic civil rights." However, a lawsuit filed by members of the Fifth Constitutional Convention to force Governor deJongh to forward the document to President Barack Obama was ultimately successful. The president forwarded the proposal to Congress—which then had 60 days to approve or disapprove the document—in May 2010, along with a report noting concerns raised by the Justice Department and restating the issues noted by Governor deJongh. A Congressional resolution disapproving of the proposed constitution and requesting that the Fifth Constitutional Convention reconvene to consider changes to address these issues was signed into law by President Obama on June 30, 2010.
There is a bill pending Senate approval in the United States Congress that would authorize the United States Secretary of the Interior to extend technical assistance grants and other assistance to facilitate a political status public education program in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa.