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People Are Talking about Puerto Rico

John Oliver’s show about voting rights in the U.S. territories has brought on lots of conversations about Puerto Rico. And, while there are certainly participants in these conversations who are up to date in their information, there is also a lot of confusion. The Reddit conversation below (click to see larger) includes a participant who knows that Puerto Rico voted for statehood in 2012, but also a participant who says, “I didn’t even know we had territories. I thought Puerto Rico was its own country, like a Cuba that we get along with.”


The response kindly notes that this kind of ignorance is common — Americans apparently are always asking if Puerto Rico needs a passport, or if they use dollars.

Another excerpt from the conversation suggests that territories don’t pay enough in taxes to deserve a vote, but also asks, “[I]f voting means so much to them why don’t they vote to become a state?” A participant said that Puerto Rico has voted against statehood, and there was a discussion about the 2012 referendum. A Wikipedia report was referenced, with the comment, “It wasn’t that long ago that PR voted to become a state.”


The claim that blank votes could have made statehood a minority position, followed by the comment, “If you assume that those blank votes are anti-statehood votes… That’s a BIG assumption.”

In fact, not even that assumption changes the fact that Puerto Rico voted for statehood, as the numbers from a comment at AboveTopSecret showed:


Elsewhere in that conversation, however, a participant held that territories get all the benefits of statehood without the responsibilities. The writer falsely said, “The territories all get every benefit of being a state,” while in fact territories don’t receive the same support as states and residents of territories don’t have representation in the legislature. The writer continued, “They are independent of most of the federal gov taxes and regulations,” which is also false.


One more comment from this writer, “They can become states any time they want,” completed the impression of a group of citizens who reject statehood because they already have the privileges and don’t want the responsibilities.

A conversation at showed much the same idea, in spite of the presence of a persistent participant who went into a lot of detail on the relevant laws. In the section shown below, there is a claim that Puerto Rico voted against statehood, saying, “They voted to not have voting rights.”


It’s encouraging that Oliver’s segment on voting rights has inspired Americans to talk about the issue. It is to be hoped that it will inspire some fact checking as well.

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