Puerto Rican Referendum: 61 Percent of Voters Choose U.S. Statehood UPDATED

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The 51st state?
While Floridians were busy re-electing Barack Obama, voters in Puerto Rico yesterday participated in a referendum posing a fundamental question to their political status with the United States: statehood or no statehood?

The first question on the two-part referendum asked voters if they wanted to change their relationship with the United States, then asked how they would like to change it. The choices were U.S. statehood, independence or "sovereign free association" -- a status that would give more than four million Puerto Ricans more political autonomy.

While 53 percent of reported voters (75,188) chose to not continue their 114-year-old relationship with the U.S., 47 percent (67,304) favored the status quo.

But it was the response to the second question that got everyone's attention: 65 percent of voters favored statehood, followed by 31 percent favoring sovereign free association and only four percent wanting independence.

Update: 54 percent of Puerto Rican voters opted to change their political status with the United States, and a final tally of 61 percent of the electorate chose statehood for the second question on the referendum.

Both Obama and Mitt Romney supported the referendum, with Obama pledging to respect the will of the people if there was a clear majority. While only 31 percent of ballots had been counted by Tuesday morning, the statehood question was being favored by an imposing 60 percent so far.

So will Puerto Rico finally become the 51st state? Puerto Ricans have been recognized as U.S. citizens since 1917, almost 20 years since the 3,515 square mile island was acquired by the U.S. military in the Spanish-American War. The political status of the Caribbean island has been under considerable debate ever since.

As the reality of Puerto Rican statehood comes closer, Miami Puerto Ricans might strike a more ambivalent tone.

"Puerto Rico cannot be independent, but I don' t know if it's a good idea to become a state," says Aina Calimano, 29, a Puerto Rican native and mother of two who works as an audiologist in Kendall. "I think the people think that it will be better because they think they will receive more benefits without doing anything. Eighty percent of the people over there don't know English. They want to be a state but they don't know anything about speaking another language. I like the idea that we are U.S. citizens but not a real state."

Several referendums were held in the past -- in 1967, 1993 and 1998 -- but a statehood majority has remained elusive.

Although Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, it's citizens are not represented in Congress, nor is Puerto Rico represented in the electoral college and therefore citizens cannot vote in the presidential election. The closest thing they have to representation in the U.S. federal government is a non-voting Resident Commissioner in the House of Representatives, a position that has as much influence as a court jester. Pedro Pierluisi (D) is the incumbent.

Citizens can still elect legislators and a governor. And interestingly, Puerto Ricans look to have narrowly chosen challenger Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party -- which opposes statehood -- over incumbent Luis Fortuno by 48 to 47 percent.

To become a full-fledged state, the measure would still need a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress.

Florida's growing Puerto Rican community -- a group that helped give Obama the lead in Florida -- will be watching the results closely.

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17 comments
PenelopeSpider
PenelopeSpider

As others have stated, it is not true that 65% of Puerto Rican voters favor statehood. 24% of voters did not answer the second question, either because they believed that they couldn't after choosing the status quo on the first question, or because they weren't going to choose something they didn't believe in "regardless of their answer to the first question". The percent of voters that chose statehood on the second question is actually 46.4%, according to the latest numbers, and this number may include some of the voters that actually favor the status quo but voted on the second question as well. Currently, the percent of voters favoring the status quo is at 46.01%.The truth is that less than half of Puerto Ricans want to become a state of the USA. It is only a very slim, relative majority, and one that may be inflated because of the "second choice" votes of people who were instructed to vote for a non-territorial option regardless of their support for the status quo. These are not the results that will convince the President of making Puerto Rico the 51st state.

Morris Solow
Morris Solow

Yes, Yes Let`s Scoop Up That Jewel In The Carribbean Known As Cuba As Well.

DocTonyUPR
DocTonyUPR

While this article isn't wrong, to say that 65% of voters supported statehood is simply not true. As David Minsky correctly points out, it was a two part ballot. The first question was asked whether Puerto Rico should change status, or if the island should maintain the status quo. However, people who voted to maintain the status quo (a "yes" vote) were not permitted to vote on the second question. So, 53% favor changing status, and 65% of that 53% favor statehood. That is NOT the same thing as saying that 65% of voters favor statehood.

HarryTheHandyman
HarryTheHandyman

No.  This is going to fuck up our flag.  Unless we get rid of California, which would be awesome.

NataschaOS
NataschaOS

David, thanks for writing this article about the Puerto Rico elections. As a Puerto Rican that have lived in South Florida for the past 18 years, I have seen the growth of the Puerto Rico community in South Florida for the past 10 years and their importance in the US elections.  The Puerto Rico "status" situation is very complicated - as it has been for the past 100 years - and when the population (actually 3.7 million) votes it shows the inner strife between its nationalistic spirit and the wish to transition to a US state. As you noted, the fact that they vote pro-statehood (as a status) but then vote for a candidate who believes in the Commonwealth status - shows the division in their ideology. 

Chard Beauregarde
Chard Beauregarde

Dunno, the Repubs realize they lost partly because of the Latino vote. They really have no choice but to play ball.

Nig Suffront
Nig Suffront

Puerto Ricans r banned from calling themselfs latino that's all I got to say. You can't have your hooker and bang her too.

EzƦă VɅǹ
EzƦă VɅǹ

I'm going out to buy stock in a flag company

NataschaOS
NataschaOS

 @DocTonyUPR I had to check with my family in Puerto Rico regarding your statement - and actually it's not correct. There were 1,730,000 votes cast for the first question - NO got 934,000 votes, while YES 796,000. The second question also has the same number of votes - with a discrepancy that I will explain - with Statehood having 802,000, and the Estado Libre Asociado Soberano (a more independent Commonwealth status) w 437,000- The discrepancy comes in that there were 468,000 votes left blank for the second question. Yes, 65% is not the right number / closer to 47% - but it was also the confusion created by the way the questions were stated.  Believe me, it's still confusing to me too! 

DocTonyUPR
DocTonyUPR

 @HarryTheHandyman If we get rid of a state, my vote is for Texas. Most Texans truly believe that they are an independent nation anyway.

HarryTheHandyman
HarryTheHandyman

 @DocTonyUPR Actually, not a bad idea.  I'll pack my bags and head over there if that idea ever comes to fruition.

NewsDog
NewsDog

 @HarryTheHandyman  @DocTonyUPR

 Harry, what makes you think we would let you in?  If Texas does secede border controll, all of our border, will be a top priority.

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