Both Alaska and Hawaii voted on statehood with a simple up/down vote. “Shall Hawaii immediately be admitted into the Union as a State?” asked the ballot in Hawaii.
“Shall Alaska immediately be admitted into the Union as a State?” was the question in Alaska. Each question had two options: Yes or No.
Ballots in Puerto Rico’s plebiscites have been more complicated.
In 2012, the first question was, “Do you agree that Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of territorial status? 46% voted for the status quo and 54% rejected the territorial status.
The second question asked which option voters would prefer from among the viable options of statehood, independence, and Sovereign Free Association. 61% of voters chose statehood.
In 2017, the choice was among statehood, independence, and the current territorial status. If independence had won the vote, there would have been a later vote between simple independence and independence with Sovereign Free Association. 97% of voters chose statehood. The ballot made clear that blank ballots would be ignored.
In the five votes on status in Puerto Rico, statehood has grown in popularity. Both votes this century clearly favored statehood. However, there have been complaints that the votes were too complicated. The 2012 vote was protested by some because some voters left the second question blank. The 2017 vote was boycotted by anti-statehood parties.
No one boycotts a vote they can win.
Now, congressional leaders are asking for a simple up or down vote on statehood such as those held by Hawaii and Alaska, the last two territories to be admitted as states. “Yes” and “No” should be clear enough.