Statehood for Puerto Rico?

Update (13 June 2017): According to Willie Santana, via Twitter: “AZ referendum for Statehood: 7% of pop. cast vote; AK was 21%; HI, 35%.”

In case you haven’t heard yet, Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly in favor of becoming the 51st State of the United States. (Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917, but Puerto Rico is neither a U.S. State nor an independent country but rather a “commonwealth” or self-ruling territorial possession of the United States.) The leaders of Puerto Rico’s main opposition political parties, however, decided to boycott the symbolic (i.e. nonbinding) statehood vote for a variety of reasons, so overall voter turnout was weak–just 23 percent of registered voters bothered to show up and vote. So, should the opposition boycott call into question the legitimacy of the outcome? We think not, for two reasons. The process was free and fair: in addition to statehood, the other major constitutional status options (independence as well as the status quo) were included on the ballot. Furthermore, although a 23% participation rate appears to be low in absolute terms, this turnout is actually pretty good when compared to previous special referendums held in 2005 and 2012. In the July 2005 unicameral legislature referendum, for example, voter turnout was just 22.3%, while in the August 2012 bail reform referendum, it was 35.5%. In addition, voter participation rates in general elections for P.R. governor have also been steadily declining. Here are the participation rates in recent Puerto Rico elections (% of registered voters who actually vote): 82.20% = 2000 Election for Governor

81.56% = 2004 Election for Governor

22.3% = 2005 Referendum (Unicameral Legislature)

79.05% = 2008 Election for Governor

35.5% = 2012 Referendum (Legislative Reform and Bail)

78.19% = 2012 Election for Governor

55.09% = 2016 Election for Governor

23.1% = 2017 Referendum (Statehood, Independence, Status Quo)


Image result for us pr flags

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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