The Next Plebiscite

The Government of Puerto Rico has held four plebiscites on the territory’s political status. Three were confused by impossible options on the ballot.

The most recent vote was held along with the November 2012 elections. The plebiscite was limited to possible statuses but it included all possible options.

In the balloting, the people of Puerto Rico voted in favor of statehood.

  • 54% rejected the current status: territory.
  • 61.2% chose statehood among the alternatives.

The results were “clear,” as President Obama’s spokesman recognized.

The results also, however, disappointed the governor of the territory who was very narrowly (0.6%) elected at the same time (with a 0.6% plurality of the vote). Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla had supported the losing territory status option.

He and other advocates of an unprecedented “commonwealth status” also objected to their proposed new form of political status not being included on the ballot, although Federal officials of both national political parties have rejected “commonwealth status” proposals as impossible for constitutional and other reasons.

The governor and his political party, additionally, argued that the choice of statehood was not definitive since some voters did not choose an alternative to territory status.

Because lobbying by the governor threatened to block action in the Congress on Puerto Rico’s self-determination decision, President Obama proposed, and the Congress approved, another plebiscite.

This vote would be limited to options that can “resolve” the question of Puerto Rico’s ultimate status – statehood or nationhood, whether simple independence or in an association with the U.S. that either nation could end – as well as to possible statuses.

U.S. Department of Justice approval of ballot options proposed by the territory’s Elections Commission is required to ensure that the proposals do not conflict with the Constitution, laws, and policies of the U.S. as have past “commonwealth status” proposals.

Gov. Garcia Padilla last year called upon Puerto Rico’s Legislative Assembly, which is controlled by members of his political party, to pass legislation for the plebiscite provided for by the Federal law. His party’s Governing Board, however, has been divided on the options to propose to the U.S. Justice Department.

The governor has proposed that the ballot include a “commonwealth status” option that would grant funds to the territory on an equal basis with the States in all Federal social programs but exempt the territory from Federal trade, tax, labor, and transportation laws and from some of the Congress’ power under the U.S. Constitution to govern U.S. territories.

Another wing of the party wants the party to propose that Puerto Rico become a nation in an association with the U.S.

Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives, Pedro Pierluisi, and 106 other U.S. House members have sponsored a bill for the plebiscite to be on statehood and for the territory to be transitioned to statehood if Puerto Ricans again vote for equality within the U.S.

The territory’s statehood party (which Pierluisi heads) has also proposed that the plebiscite be on statehood.

A vote on statehood would be a clear choice for or against equality within the U.S. Sign the petition if you agree that the territory’s voters should be given this year choice whether you are for or against equality for Puerto Ricans.

If you live in a State, let your representatives know that you want the question of Puerto Rico’s ultimate status resolved. If you live in the territory, insist that the Elections Commission act to have the plebiscite conducted as provided for by Federal law and that the Legislative Assembly take any necessary action.

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