The original ballot for the June 2017 vote on Puerto Rico’s political status was rejected by the U.S. Department of Justice. Governor Rossello and other members of the Puerto Rico government have amended the ballot to meet the requirements of the DOJ.
The new ballot language, which is found in Public Law 427, was passed by the Puerto Rico House and Senate earlier this week, though independence and “commonwealth” representatives opposed it. The Independence Party objects to the inclusion of the territory option, while the “commonwealth” party wants the territory option to include the discredited “enhanced commonwealth” rather than the actual territory status as it is described in the U.S. constitution.
The first option placed on the ballot, reading left to right, is statehood. This is the new phrasing:
With my vote, I reiterate my request to the Federal Government to immediately begin the process of decolonization with the admission of Puerto Rico as a state of the United States of America. I am aware that the result of this request for statehood would entail equal rights and duties with the other states and the permanent union of Puerto Rico with the United [States]. I am also aware that my vote claiming Statehood means my support of all efforts toward the admission of Puerto Rico as a state of the Union, and to all state or federal legislation aimed at establishing equal conditions, Congressional Representation, and the Presidential Vote for the American Citizens of Puerto Rico.
The next option is independence. This is the new phrasing:
With my vote, I make the initial request to the Federal Government to begin the process of the decolonization through: (1) Free Association: Puerto Rico should adopt a status outside of the Territory Clause of the Constitution of the United States that recognizes the sovereignty of the People of Puerto Rico. The Free Association would be based on a free and voluntary political association, the specific terms of which shall be agreed upon between the United States and Puerto Rico as sovereign nations. Such agreement would provide the scope of the jurisdictional powers that the People of Puerto Rico agree to confer to the United States and retain all other jurisdictional powers and authorities. Under this option the American citizenship would be subject to negotiation with the United States Government; (2) Proclamation of Independence, I demand that the United States Government, in the exercise of its power to dispose of territory, recognize the national sovereignty of Puerto Rico as a completely independent nation and that the United States Congress enact the necessary legislation to initiate the negotiation and transition to the independent nation of Puerto Rico. My vote for Independence also represents my claim to the rights, duties, powers, and prerogatives of independent and democratic republics, my support of Puerto Rican citizenship, and a “Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation” between Puerto Rico and the United States after the transition process.
A new, third option has also been added. The phrasing for this option is as follows:
With my vote, I express my wish that Puerto Rico remains as it is today, subject to the powers of Congress, subject to the Territory Clause of the United States Constitution that in the Article 4, section 3 of the United States Constitution states: “The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.”
This option makes it clear, for the first time in a plebiscite in Puerto Rico, that the “current status” option cannot be a hypothetical “enhanced commonwealth.”
As of this writing, the Department of Justice has not yet responded to the new draft.