Too Many Plebiscites?

Are you experiencing plebiscite fatigue? If you live in Puerto Rico and you feel like the status vote coming up in November isn’t important, you might be suffering from the feeling that there have just been too many plebiscites. We voted for statehood in 2012 and 2017, people say, and nothing happened. Why should we do it again?

Here are some of the concerns people express about the upcoming vote.

Too many plebiscites

How many plebiscites would be too many? There’s no real answer to that. Colorado, for example, had four statehood votes: sometimes statehood won and sometimes it lost, but Congress didn’t take action. Sound familiar?

They had three constitutions before both the voters and Congress would finally approve one. Eventually, they got an enabling act passed in Congress.

Then the president vetoed their admission.

The territorial representative kept trying to get Colorado admitted. There was a new plebiscite, and statehood won. Questions about the size of Colorado’s population came up, anti-statehooders tried to discredit the vote for statehood, but eventually Colorado once again got an admissions bill through Congress and the new president signed the bill.

At any time during that process, the people of Colorado could have given up. They didn’t. They persevered and became a state.

The “commonwealth” party is working to persuade voters in Puerto Rico to choose NO. But they are also working to discredit the November vote. This gives Congress an excuse not to take action. A massive turnout and a clear majority YES vote will take away that possibility. We need to get the vote out in November.

Congress doesn’t care

We hear that Congress doesn’t care about Puerto Rico. But the truth is that Puerto Rico is being discussed by the leaders in Congress frequently. We don’t like to hear Mitch McConnell say negative things about Puerto Rico statehood, but the truth is that Mitch McConnell said nothing at all about Puerto Rico for years.

He spoke up for disaster relief for the Island in 2017, but before that McConnell didn’t seem to have Puerto Rico on his mind at all, ever. In 2019 he began to rail against statehood for Puerto Rico. That shows that he had become more aware of Puerto Rico than before.

McConnell mistakenly believes that Puerto Rico will definitely be a Democratic state. That is why he opposes statehood for the territory. We hope he will change his mind.

But many more members of Congress are in favor of statehood. More than 60% of the mainland American public favor statehood for Puerto Rico. A 2017 poll on status conducted in Puerto Rico found that 91% of respondents preferred statehood.

When U.S. voters make it clear to their elected representatives that they want statehood for Puerto Rico, Congress will care. When Puerto Rico votes for statehood again in November, Congress will not be able to pretend that they are just waiting for Puerto Rico to make up their minds.

As Rep. Darren Soto said on Twitter, “We have a plebiscite on the Island coming up this November. If the people of #PuertoRico choose statehood, then the next steps for Congress are pretty clear. We vote to admit them to the union.”

Plebiscites aren’t binding

No, they’re not. It is in the nature of plebiscites that they are an expression of the will of the people. That’s what the word means.

People waiting around for a binding vote will wait a long time.

Most of the territories that became states already have had a referendum. Some (like Colorado) had a lot of them. Some (like Alabama) never had one at all.

No territory has ever had a binding plebiscite.

Many territories had votes against statehood before they had votes for it. Fortunately, none of those votes were binding, so all those territories have become states.

Puerto Rico will also become a state. This is not the time to give up. This is the time to make sure that the November YES vote is clear, and that Congress takes action.

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