Last Sunday Puerto Ricans approved a referendum in a landslide vote that the Caribbean territory should request statehood.
As reported by The Wall Street Journal, 97 percent of the voters showed that the island should become the nation’s 51st state. Still, there was historically-low attendance for the vote – only 23 percent of registered voters cast a ballot amid a boycott from two out of three of Puerto Rico’s major political parties, which could hinder efforts for D.C. to recognize Puerto Rico as a state.
“An overwhelming majority voted for statehood. Today we are sending a strong and clear message for equal rights as American citizens,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said, according to NBC News. “This was a democratic process and statehood got a historic 97 percent of the vote.”
Nevertheless, Hector Ferrer from the Democratic Party, which was backing the boycott, stated:
“Statehood-ers shot themselves in the foot.”
“Eight out of 10 voters went to the beach, went to the river, went to go eat, went to go hang out, went to church, but they sure didn’t go out to vote,” Ferrer said at a press conference in San Juan. “Gov. Rosselló is now going to go to Washington and say this (statehood) is what people wanted. But we’re going too to say no, that’s not true and the numbers speak for themselves.”
The next quest is for the governor to put into the “Tennessee Plan,” which is a way for territories to lobby to become states. The governor selects two senators and five congressmen to go to D.C. in order to persuade the government to recognize it as the 51st state.
As reported by Newsweek, six other states other than Tennessee have made use of this practice in order to attain statehood, such as: Michigan, Iowa, California, Oregon, Kansas and Alaska. New Mexico didn’t succeed in exercising this method in 1850, but it was still granted statehood in 1912.
The Hill reports, that President Trump was willing to consider Puerto Rico as a state during last year’s presidential campaign. While the Republican Party may have considered to support Puerto Rican statehood, many members are now expressing concerns that doing so would add two senators and seven electoral votes from a state that’s voted strongly in liberals favor in recent years.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that Puerto Rico will continue to do so. Let’s take for example Alaska, whose statehood back in 1959 was directly tied to Hawaii’s, since lawmakers believed Alaska would be on the Democrat’s side and Hawaii would be Republican. It wasn’t long till that state of affairs reversed itself.
But, what actually can be a problem is the low voter turnout. According to Newsweek, the official plank of the Democrats is that they would only recognize statehood if it were decided through “fair, open and democratic elections.” The low attendance for the referendum – especially judging by previous plebiscites in 1993 and 2012 had far higher attendance – meaning that the people’s will is unclear about this matter.
Still, what happened on Sunday was the first step toward the first new star in our flag in over 50 years, and possibly a major shakeup in the American political system.