Puerto Rico held status votes in 1967, 1993, 1998, 2012, and 2017, which gave Puerto Rican voters the choice over whether their Island should remain a U.S. territory or change its relationship with the U.S.
A new status vote has been scheduled for November 3, 2020.
A thread runs through all discussions of Puerto Rico plebiscites: should “commonwealth” be on the ballot?
What’s a commonwealth?
A “commonwealth” option was on the ballot in 1967 and 1993, and this choice won a majority of votes in 1967. The problem is, the meaning of “commonwealth” is and always has been unclear. In fact, the definition has changed over time.
The “commonwealth” ballot option had a different meaning in 1967 than it did in 1993, and influential decisionmakers in Congress, as well as Republican and Democratic Presidents, have all indicated that “commonwealth” – often called “Enhanced Commonwealth” or “Developed Commonwealth” – is dead on arrival for Constitutional and practical reasons.
See original text from the 1967, 1993 and 1998 ballots here.
The 1967 and 1993 ballots defined identical “commonwealth” options differently, and the 1998 ballot did not include “commonwealth” at all but did include Puerto Rico’s current status as a U.S. territory. The territory option received .1% of the vote and a nebulous “none of the above” option received over 50% of the vote.
In the 21st century, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) – also known as the Commonwealth Party – has been unable to come up with an agreed-upon definition of “commonwealth” to include on ballots. In fact, the PDP released its most recent version of its “Commonwealth” platform in 1998, the same year that only .1% of voters indicated that they would like for Puerto Rico to remain a territory.