06 November 2020

Puerto Rico Votes For Statehood

The outcome of Puerto Rico's statehood referendum on Tuesday is sufficient for Congress to feel comfortable granting it statehood without a further referendum. The U.S. House would support this step. It would take a majority of the U.S. Senate to back the measure, which would be a stretch with Democrats currently having just 48 U.S. Senate seats and possibly picking up two more in Georgia runoff elections, with a couple of Republicans and perhaps one Democrat who may not be reliable Democratic votes on this issue.  Granting Puerto Rico statehood is clearly the right thing to do.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting in the nonbinding referendum, 52 percent of voters in Puerto Rico endorsed statehood, compared to nearly 48 percent who voted against it. The victory for the statehood movement marked a significant departure from the past, when the political parties that oppose statehood banded together for a nearly evenly split result.

Tuesday’s race was the sixth plebiscite on the matter. The statehood movement overwhelmingly won the last referendum, held in 2017, but turnout was just 23 percent. 
The question voters were asked was considered so loaded to favor statehood that critics who support the status quo or independence for Puerto Rico boycotted.

This time, there was no official boycott, but voter apathy still prevailed, said Carlos Vargas-Ramos, director of public policy at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. Data from the territory’s Electoral Commission shows that 51 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, in which the election of the island’s next governor was also on the ballot.

That is a steep decline compared to past gubernatorial elections, when voter turnout rates often exceeded 70 percent. In fact, the turnout on Tuesday was the lowest in the 72 years that Puerto Rico has been electing governors, Mr. Vargas-Ramos said. Still, he said, proponents of statehood can take these latest results and boast of a “clear majority.”

From the New York Times

Meanwhile, the same story reports that:

In the governor’s race, Pedro Pierluisi of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party held a lead of about 1 percentage point over Carlos Delgado of the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the island’s current status. But with six candidates on the ballot, Mr. Pierluisi had less than one-third of the vote.

So, Pierluisi and Delgado will probably face off in a runoff election. 

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