The Puerto Rico State Elections Commissions has released a draft ballot for status referendum to be held on June 11, 2017.
The ballot begins with “Instructions for the Voter” in both English and Spanish. The English instructions inform voters that they “can only choose and mark one (1) alternative of non-territorial and non-colonial political status,” and explicitly notes that a “ballot marked with more than one status alternative will be considered wrongly voted.” Addressing confusion from past plebiscites in which voters simply left questions blank, leading to guessing games as to what they actually intended, the instructions specify that “[a]ll ballots not voted and/or wrongly voted will not be accounted in the official results certified by the State Elections Commission, according to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico.”
The next section of the ballot is the “Affirmation of the Voter” which recognizes Puerto Rico’s “territorial and colonial grievance for 119 years,” and positions the voter to select one of two “final, permanent, non-territorial and non-colonial political status alternative(s)” outside of the realm of the U.S. Constitution’s Territorial Clause: statehood or independence/free association.
The statehood option recognizes that statehood “would entail equal rights and duties with the other states” and is clear that statehood “is the only option that guarantees” U.S. citizenship “by birth in Puerto Rico.”
The independence/free association option offers two possible futures as a sovereign nation. The language of this option states:
With my vote, I make the initial request to the Federal Government to begin the process of the decolonization through: (1) Free Association: Puerto Rico should adopt a status outside of the Territory Clause of the Constitution of the United States that recognizes the sovereignty of the People of Puerto Rico. The Free Association would be based on a free and voluntary political association, the specific terms of which shall be agreed upon between the United States and Puerto Rico as sovereign nations. Such agreement would provide the scope of the jurisdictional powers that the People of Puerto Rico agree to confer to the United States and retain all other jurisdictional powers and authorities. Under this option the American citizenship would be subject to negotiation with the United States Government; (2) Proclamation of Independence, I demand that the United States Government, in the exercise of its power to dispose of territory, recognize the national sovereignty of Puerto Rico as a completely independent nation and that the United States Congress enact the necessary legislation to initiate the negotiation and transition to the independent nation of Puerto Rico. My vote for Independence also represents my claim to the rights, duties, powers, and prerogatives of independent and democratic republics, my support of Puerto Rican citizenship, and a “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation” between Puerto Rico and the United States after the transition process.
If this option should win the vote, there will be a further vote later in 2017 on whether Puerto Rico should negotiate a Compact of Free Association or a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation.
Under a 2014 law, the U.S. Department of Justice has a responsibility to find “that the voter education materials, plebiscite ballot, and related materials are not incompatible with the Constitution and laws and policies of the United States,” but has not yet done so.