Slices of Latin America

Culture and current issues

Puerto Ricans vote in favor of statehood

Puerto Rican and American flags side by side in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican and American flags side by side in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Timothy McAuliffe

For the first time a majority of Puerto Ricans has voted in favor of becoming America’s 51st state.

On a referendum held on the same day the United States was choosing its president, Nov. 6, Puerto Rico asked its citizens whether they wanted to keep their US Commonwealth status, to which 54 percent answered no.

Then, on the same ballot they were given three options to choose from: statehood, independence or sovereign free association. On this question, 61 percent chose the option of statehood, versus 33 percent who chose sovereign free association and  6 percent  chose complete independence.

Their current status of Commonwealth can be a bit confusing. Some people refer to Puerto Rico as a US Territory while others even call it a colony of the United States, which hurts the feelings of some Boricuas (Puerto Ricans born on the island, Borinkén, as the Taíno indians called it).

Today, Puerto Ricans are US citizens, but the roughly 4 million citizens living on the island cannot vote for US president. They have a seat at the U.S. House of Representatives, but the Commissioner cannot vote.

On the other hand, as soon as they move to the mainland, they are just like any other American in terms of their rights and duties.

Although Puerto Ricans have favored statehood, the US Congress has the final word. President Obama has said before that he would support Puerto Rico’s decision. But besides the president’s signature, Puerto Rico needs a majority of votes on both houses to become a state.

The results of this referendum have been questioned by some people because about one third of the voters left the second question blank, so they were not included in the tally. If they had been, the percentage of people favoring statehood would drop to 45. Some argue that many of those who answered YES to keeping the same status, probably left the second question blank.

Related stories:

Endorsement with an asterisk (Bloomberg Businessweek article)

Statehood unlikely until 2015 (US News article)

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This entry was posted on November 8, 2012 by in Puerto Rico, United States and tagged , , .

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