Puerto Rico has chosen to become the 51st State of the Union. Statehood won yesterday’s plebiscite by a landslide: 97% of votes cast favored statehood. Among the other two options on the ballot, the current territorial status received 1.3% of the vote and independence/free association had 1.5% of voter support.
Governor Rossello released a statement saying, “An overwhelming majority of the voters who cast their ballots… voted today in favor of becoming the 51st state of the Union. This vote is a ratification of the results of the previous plebiscite held on the island on November 2012.”
In the 2012 vote, 54% of voters rejected the territorial status and 61% chose statehood as an alternative.
“Today, We the People of Puerto Rico are sending a strong and clear message to the U.S. Congress and to the world,” Gov. Rossello’s statement continued, “claiming our equal rights as American citizens.”
Congress must still take action for Puerto Rico to become the 51st state.
“We will now take these results to Washington, D.C.,” said Rossello, “with the strong support of not only a duly executed electoral exercise, but also of a contingency of National and International observers, who can attest to the fact that the process was fair, well organized and democratic.”
Rossello is taking a strong position with the Congress. “From today going forward, the Federal government will no longer be able to ignore the voice of the majority of the American citizens in Puerto Rico,” he said. “It would be highly contradictory for Washington to demand democracy in other parts of the world, and NOT respond to the legitimate right to self-determination that was exercised today in the American territory of Puerto Rico.”
Voting participation yesterday was 23% as opposed to 78.19% in the 2012 status plebiscite. In calling for a boycott of the vote, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) President Hector Ferrer complained about how the current status is defined as a territory on the ballot. Members of the PDP continue to advocate for a “commonwealth” status for Puerto Rico despite many decades of federal officials calling “commonwealth” unconstitutional and impossible as a practical matter. Independence critics joined in the protest in light of the non-binding nature of the vote.