The Young Democrats of America (YDA) passed a resolution at their winter meeting in Salt Lake City this week, “urging President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to take action on the irrefutable and clear mandate sent by the people of Puerto Rico on November 6th, 2012 during which the current territorial political relationship of the island with the United States was rejected and an overwhelming majority voted in favor of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state of the Union.”
The resolution, which was presented by Phillip Arroyo (Puerto Rico/Chairman of the YDA Hispanic Caucus) and Jonathan Padilla (California/National Treasurer), affirmed that “the will of the people of Puerto Rico in rejecting the current territorial political relationship of the island with the United States was irrefutably mandated by a wide 54%-46% margin as well as a super majority mandate of 61% in favor of statehood among non-territorial status options.”
The YDA resolution also recognized that voter turnout for the plebiscite was over 75%, a level of participation “substantially higher than the national turnout for the U.S. general elections on the same day.” It endorsed “swift” action and “due diligence” on the November 6 referendum and called for legislation validating the will of the American citizens of the island who “claim[ed] equal rights as American citizens and permanently reject[ed] modern day colonialism.”
Both Democrats and Republicans have called upon the federal government to acknowledge the plebiscite vote and take action toward Puerto Rican statehood. After an off-the-cuff remark by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney became a Politico headline that the vote wasn’t “clear,” the White House quickly distanced itself from this characterization of the results and clarrified through Luis Miranda, Director of Hispanic Media, that “the results were clear, the people of Puerto Rico want the issue of status resolved, and a majority chose statehood in the second question.”
As the YDA points out, there is no real uncertainty about the referendum’s outcome. Questions have centered on ballots in which voters answered the first question (whether to continue the current relationship) but not on the second (what relationship would be preferred). In the United States, voters often have multiple questions on a ballot. They are free to leave questions blank, and blank votes are not counted. A blank vote on an issue is considered the same as not having voted at all. Voter turnout for the referendum in Puerto Rico was about 78%. Voter turnout for the presidential election in the United States was calculated at 57.5%. It is not possible to conclude that the plebiscite was unclear without postulating that the presidential election, with so many eligible voters failing to cast votes, was also unclear.