Lobbyists for Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla and his “commonwealth” party are now suggesting to Federal officials that a new “commonwealth status” was the real victor in Puerto Rico’s political status plebiscite last November.
The results, determined by law by Puerto Rico’s Elections Commission, were 53.97% against the islands’ current territory status — which is popularly, but misleadingly, known as “commonwealth” — and 61.16% for statehood among the alternatives. Nationhood in a non-binding association with the U.S. received 33.34% and independence 5.49%.
Garcia and other “commonwealth” party leaders have been telling Federal officials that the vote on the current territory status — which they supported in the plebiscite — was 51.7% opposed, 44.1% in favor, and 3.6% not choosing. They say that the vote on the alternatives was 44.4% for statehood, 24.3% for nationhood in a non-binding association with the U.S., 4% for independence, and 26.5% not choosing.
The Governor and other party leaders campaigned for the current territory status option, although they said that they did not really support it because they insist that the status is not territory — contrary to statements of all three branches of the Federal government.
The “commonwealth” party leaders also urged voters to not choose among the alternatives to territory status, saying that their proposed new “commonwealth status” was wrongly left off the ballot.
They, additionally, opposed the nationhood in a non-binding association with the U.S. option, accurately explaining that it was fundamentally different from their proposed “commonwealth.”
But representatives of Garcia and the “commonwealth” party are now telling Federal officials that votes for nationhood in a non-binding association with the U.S. were actually votes for their “commonwealth status” as were blank (no choice) ballots.
Using their numbers, that produces a 50.8% vote for their “commonwealth.”
Essential elements of their “commonwealth” proposal include Puerto Rico’s exemption from congressional territory governing authority without the islands becoming a State or a nation and, relatedly, Congress not being able to change a new “commonwealth” governing arrangement without Puerto Rico’s consent.
The Obama Administration, the administrations of both Presidents Bush and President Clinton, and congressional authorities have said that these fundamental provisions of the proposal are a constitutional impossibility. Congress cannot give up Congress’ constitutional power to govern a territory.
Other parts of the new “commonwealth status” would empower the islands to veto the application of Federal laws and to enter into international agreements that require national sovereignty. Additionally, the Federal government would grant the insular government a new subsidy as well as continue giving all current assistance and citizenship to Puerto Ricans.
Federal officials have also uniformly rejected the entire proposal.
The uniform Federal rejections explain why Obama Administration and congressional officials of both parties says that it was proper for Puerto Rico’s last governor and legislature to not include the “commonwealth status” proposal on the plebiscite ballot.