In a late September interview with Joy Reid of MSNBC, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) listed things he would change if his party gains control of the Senate in the upcoming election.
Reid asked about Puerto Rico Statehood, and Schumer responded, “I would — believe me, on D.C. and Puerto Rico — particularly if Puerto Rico votes for it, D.C. already has voted for it and wants it — would love to make them states.”
Recent polling indicates that Democrats are favored to take control of the Senate chamber in the upcoming election, providing Senator Schumer with the powerful platform of Majority Leader and ability to set the Senate agenda.
Past support for Puerto Rico statehood
In an interview with The Atlantic last year, Schumer described statehood as “empowering people.”
“I’d do it for Puerto Rico too,” he said, “but they’re not sure they want statehood. But D.C. has had a referendum, they want statehood, and we should have them be allowed to vote in federal elections—have congressmen, have senators, etc.”
Puerto Rico – unlike D.C. – has been plagued by confusion over the definitions of various options voters seek to place on the ballot.
D.C. plebiscites have been straightforward yes/no votes on U.S. statehood.
Puerto Rico, on the other hand, has experienced internal debates about including options stemming from a developed “Commonwealth” status on the ballot. These proposals mix elements of statehood – which includes U.S. citizenship – with sovereignty, in which U.S. citizenship eventually ends.
The last time that D.C. held an up or down vote on statehood, in 2016, 244,134 D.C. voters (85.69%) voted yes. 40,779 voted no, and there were 26,154 blank or otherwise invalid votes.
In 2017, Puerto Rico also held a status vote. 502,801 (97%) chose statehood. 7,786 chose independence, 6,823 chose territorial status, and there were 984 blank or otherwise invalid votes.
In 2012, Puerto Rico voted against the current territorial status, with 54% voting “no” on whether they wanted to remain with the status quo. In a second ballot question, 61% chose statehood among the viable options.
A yes or no vote on statehood is scheduled for November 3rd of this year. This will be the first up or down vote on statehood in Puerto Rico. There have been five previous plebiscites on the Island’s political status, but each of the preceding votes has had multiple choices for status.