Although she has said that statehood is not a priority for her government, Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced has also said that she favors statehood and will hold a new status vote if her party decides that should be done. A new plebiscite will include two choices: yes to statehood or no to statehood.
Vazquez favors statehood. “No people in the world deserve to be treated unequally,” she said.
Puerto Rico has held five status votes since 1967. The independence option has never received more than 5.5% of the vote in any plebiscite.
The “commonwealth” option won in 1967, with 60.4% of the voters. This option had a plurality, though not majority, in 1993, with 48.6% of the votes. In 1998, the winning option was “none of the above,” which the “commonwealth” party took as a win. However, the U.S. government has consistently rejected the “commonwealth” option. The Department of Justice will not allow this option on any federally-funded plebiscite, because it is not a viable option under the U.S. Constitution. The “enhanced commonwealth” option has not been on the ballot since 1993.
As recently as 2018, the Department of Justice made this statement:”Presidential task force reports in 2005, 2007, and 2011 have likewise confirmed that Puerto Rico is not a sovereign and that it could become one only if it were to attain statehood or become an independent nation.”
Therefore, “commonwealth” is not an option, even if Puerto Rico voters want it.
In 2012, 54% of voters rejected the current territorial status, and 61% chose statehood from the viable status options.
In 2017, 97% of voters chose statehood.
Although it appears that Puerto Rico voters have chosen statehood, protesters have been successful in creating enough confusion and uncertainty about the 21st century plebiscites that many political leaders are calling for a new referendum.
Federal funds have been set aside to hold the plebiscite and to prepare educational materials for the vote.
Yes or no
Each plebiscite’s ballot has been quite different from the one before. One form of the vote has not yet been tried: a yes or no vote on statehood.
This is the type of vote taken in Hawaii and Alaska, the two most recent territories to become States. It is also the simplest choice.
The Department of Justice has taken the position that any ballot presenting options must include the current territorial option. This has created confusion in the past, since a vote for remaining a territory seems to some voters like a vote for “enhanced commonwealth.”
Since so few votes have ever been cast for independence and “enhanced commonwealth” has been rejected by the U.S. government, the real options are statehood or continuing as a territory. However, the “commonwealth” party and the Independence Party both demand a place on the ballot. Former Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla went so far as to claim that “commonwealth” supporters were “disenfranchised” when the imaginary “enhanced commonwealth” option was not on the ballot.
Governor Vazquez disagrees. She explained that a “Statehood: Yes or No” plebiscite would be democratic because, although the ballot will only present one status option, anyone who does not support statehood can vote “no.”
”Thus,” she said, “we will clarify the controversy.”