Puerto Rico Report has obtained copies of letters that Governor Garcia Padilla has sent Members of Congress giving results of Puerto Rico’s political status plebiscite very different than those determined by Puerto Rico’s Elections Commission (which includes his “commonwealth” party representative).
Remarkably, Garcia’s letter asserts that the territory’s statehood party “has concentrated all of its efforts on misrepresenting the outcome of the referendum” and its leader, who is Puerto Rico’s elected representative to the Federal government, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, “has launched a campaign to mischaracterize the electoral results.”
According to the Elections Commission, 53.97% of the vote was against Puerto Rico’s current territory status and 61.16% was for statehood among the alternatives, with nationhood in a non-binding association with the U.S. obtaining 33.34% and independence 5.49%.
Garcia’s letter purports to report that “statehood received only 44.4%.”
It also contends that 26.5% of the vote consisted of ballots that made no choice among Puerto Rico’s status options, suggesting that these should be counted — contrary to Puerto Rico election law.
Further, it combined “Commonwealth supporters” and those who did not choose among the options as totaling “more than 50% of the vote.”
The Governor was not clear as to what option “Commonwealth” supporters voted for. He urged voters to cast ballots for continuing the current territory status, which received 46.03% of the vote. The total for territory status and no status choice using his results would be 72.53% — much, much more than 50%.
He also opposed the nationhood in a non-binding association with the U.S. option and urged voters to not vote on the alternatives to territory status. The combination of those votes and his 26.5% of ballots not voting that he said should be counted would be 59.84% — still much more than 50%.
Garcia also wrote “Commonwealth” was “the option that Puerto Rico has chosen in all past plebiscites.”
In fact, a “Commonwealth” option did win a majority of the vote in the 1967 plebiscite, another “Commonwealth” option obtained a slight plurality of the vote — not a majority — over statehood in the 1993 plebiscite, and statehood was the status that won the most votes in a 1998 plebiscite with a bare majority of the ballots choosing none of Puerto Rico’s status options. But there is much more to the story that makes the Governor’s claim about “Commonwealth” victories very misleading.
- The current territory status is often popularly — but misleadingly — called “commonwealth” but the “Commonwealth” option that won the 1967 plebiscite was very different from the current status and was rejected when considered by the Congress and President Ford.
- The “Commonwealth” option that obtained a slight plurality of the vote in the 1993 plebiscite was different from the 1967 plebiscite “Commonwealth” as well as the current status also was not accepted by President Clinton and congressional leaders.
- The “commonwealth” party urged votes for none of Puerto Rico’s options in the 1998 plebiscite — as did other nationalists — saying that such votes would be votes for the party’s current status proposal but that proposal was found to be impossible for constitutional and other reasons by the Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama Administrations and the leaders of both national political parties of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives committees with jurisdiction over status issues.