John Oliver got serious on Last Week Tonight when he suggested admitting Puerto Rico as a State.
In this video clip, Oliver says, “There are some other steps we could take that should be impossible to argue with at this point. . . . On the Senate side, you could grant statehood to Washington, DC, and, if voters there want it, Puerto Rico.”
He points out that adding Puerto Rico and D.C. to the Senate would make that body more representative of the United States as a whole.
(The clip includes some rough language.)
“There are some other steps we could take that should be impossible to argue with at this point. . . . On the Senate side, you could grant statehood to Washington, DC, and, if voters there want it, Puerto Rico.” pic.twitter.com/IHYoyoxJJM
— Eliot (@EliotTricotti) October 2, 2020
Oliver also says that giving statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico is “the right…thing to do.”
Pointing out that the current political status leaves more than three million U.S. citizens with no representation in the Senate, Oliver took the position that statehood for Puerto Rico is “impossible to argue with at this point.”
Some people are still arguing, and Oliver’s caveat “if the voters there want it,” shows one of the reasons. Another plebiscite, this time with a yes/no question about statehood, is scheduled for November 3, 2020.
John Oliver on territories
John Oliver has shared concerns about territories’ voting rights before. This clip from 2015 begins with Puerto Rico, the largest inhabited territory of the United States.
Oliver glances at the Insular Cases and points out that Puerto Rico has only limited ability to participate in the legislative process. Whether Puerto Rico chooses statehood or not, he says, “it’s a little weird” that Puerto Rico doesn’t have a vote in Congress.
Support for statehood
U.S. courts have ruled repeatedly that territories can’t have voting rights equal to States. In the United States, individual voters do not elect the president; States do, through the Electoral College. Since Puerto Rico is not a State, voters in Puerto Rico can vote in presidential primaries, but not in the presidential election.
As a State, Puerto Rico would automatically have the ability to vote in presidential races, as well as equal rights and responsibilities of statehood.
Oliver, like many Americans, may have realized over the years that giving someone the ability to vote doesn’t solve the problems of inequality that exist in the territory. He apparently has joined the majority of Americans, including Puerto Ricans, in recognizing the dignity and democratic integrity of statehood for Puerto Rico.