Puerto Rico election results have been finalized. Pedro Pierluisi has been sworn in as Governor, and Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon has begun her new term as Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner.
Puerto Rico’s November election is finally complete, and all the votes have been counted and certified. The process finally ended on December 31, 2020, following an unusually complex vote.
The winning candidates
Representing the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP), Pierluisi received 33.24% of the vote, just under 1.5% ahead of Popular Democratic Party (PPD) candidate Charlie Delgado in a six-candidate race. The contest was close between the representatives of Puerto Rico’s two major parties, and no other candidate came near winning.
PNP candidate Gonzalez-Colon won a second term as Resident Commissioner with 41.18% of the vote in a five-way race. With a nine-point lead over Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, the PDP candidate, Gonzalez-Colon was the top vote-getter in the election.
The Puerto Rico Senate has 27 members. The governor and the resident commissioner are both members of the PNP, which has 10 seats in the Senate. The other major party, the PPD, has 12 seats. The Citizens Victory Movement (MVC) has two, the Independence Party (PIP) and Project Dignity (PD) one each, and there is a senator not aligned with a party.
The PPD has a one-seat majority in the House with 26 seats compared with the PNP’s 21, the MVC’s two, and one each for the PIP and PD.
Statehood won by 53% (52.52%).
A “no” vote could have represented anything other than statehood, including:
- sovereign nationhood under a Compact of Free Association with the U.S., under which the U.S. controls the other nation’s defense/national security policy, federal benefits are not permanent, and U.S. citizenship has never been granted
- what some call “free association” but is really an unproven governing arrangement
- an impossible “commonwealth” status
- remaining a U.S. territory, the status quo
A recent poll among Puerto Ricans living in states, who were not eligible to vote in the plebiscite, showed strong support for U.S. candidates who support statehood. Eighty-six percent of respondents answered that they would support a candidate who supported Puerto Rico statehood in which “the people of Puerto Rico would have the same rights as every other American and have five members of Congress and two U.S. senators representing them in Washington, D.C.”
Without hearing a detailed explanation of the democratic freedoms associated with statehood, nearly three-quarters of Puerto Ricans polled responded that they would be more likely to support a candidate for office who endorsed statehood for Puerto Rico. This includes 77 percent of both Republicans and Democrats, and 69 percent of political independents. Likewise, 70 percent of those who initially support options for Puerto Rico other than statehood still say they would be more likely to support a U.S. candidate for office who endorses making Puerto Rico a state.
Statehood won more votes than any candidate
The two major parties in Puerto Rico have traditionally held specific positions on political status. The PNP is the statehood party, while the PPD espouses the much more fluid “commonwealth” position. The definition of “commonwealth” has varied over time, and different factions within the party have different definitions. Statehood is defined by the Constitution of the United States.
In the 2020 vote, statehood got the most votes of any item on the ballot, with 655,505 votes. Statehood received over 19% more votes than did pro-statehood candidate Pierluisi.
A letter to Santa Claus
Two of the status options that people spoke for and presumably voted for are imaginary. Both “free association” and “commonwealth” have been used to describe possible governments that are impossible under the United States Constitution. They have been rejected by all three branches of government, and described repeatedly by Congress as “not viable.”
They are what former Rep. Jose Serrano (R-NY) described as “a letter to Santa Claus.”
Another of the options, continued territory status, was soundly rejected in the 2012 plebiscite, as House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) recently pointed out to the Department of Justice.