We’re still hearing about the boycott of the 2017 plebiscite. Low voter turnout continues to be an argument against statehood.
Let’s recap. In 2017, a status referendum was held in Puerto Rico. Only 23% of voters turned out. Voter turnout doesn’t matter in the United States. There are many governors, mayors, and congressional representatives who won their seats with 23% or 12% or 6% of the vote. The only voices that matter in our democracy are those that show up and vote.
Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fl), recognized this at the time. “There are a ton of arguments, but our democracy is based on those elections,” he said. “The opponents simply decided to boycott the elections thinking that would reserve them an argument later on, and I couldn’t imagine a greater folly in that situation.”
Nobody boycotts an election they can win
Anti-statehood groups banded together to call for a boycott of the plebiscite. While El Nuevo Dia reported that the plebiscite was not the main reason voters stayed away from the polls, the desired outcome was achieved.
The low turnout allowed both independence and territory supporters to question the results of the plebiscite. Since it was clear that statehood is the most popular option of the viable choices for Puerto Rico’s political status, questioning the outcome was the only card in the hands of independence and “commonwealth” leaders.
Independence has never gained more than 5% of votes in any status referendum, and no Independence Party candidate has ever won the race for governor. It is clear that Puerto Rico doesn’t want independence.
The “commonwealth” option is more complicated. The federal government — all three branches — has repeatedly said that the current territory status is all that Puerto Rico has available as a status option apart from statehood or independence.
The “commonwealth” party continues to reject that reality and to imagine an “enhanced commonwealth” possibility.
In 2019, we look forward to statehood for Puerto Rico, in spite of these machinations.