Puerto Rico has held six plebiscites on the political status of the Island, and Governor Pierluisi has just announced a seventh, to be held along with the general election on November 5, 2024.

Seven plebiscites

A plebiscite is a vote taken to get a sense of what the voters want. It is in the nature of plebiscites that they are generally nonbonding. The upcoming vote will once again be a way for the voters to tell Washington what they want, and will not come with a commitment from Congress to take action.

The Puerto Rico Status Act, a bill now under consideration in both houses of Congress, calls for a binding vote requiring Congress to take action on the results of that vote. However, an administrative bulletin from the Governor’s office explains that the government of Puerto Rico has the right to call further votes, particularly when status acts are being proposed in Congress.

The bulletin states that the plebiscites in 2012, 2017, and 2020 not only called for statehood for Puerto Rico, but made it clear that Puerto Rico does not consent to the current territory status. “The people do not need the permission of Congress to go to the polls,” the bulletin declares. “We are compelled to continue our journey and keep raising our voice until our claim is heard and validated.”

The results of the previous plebiscites:

1967 1993 1998 2012 2017 2020
Independence 0.6% 4.4% 2.54% 5.5% 1.5% NA
Commonwealth 60.4% 48.6% 0.06% 46.0% 1.3% NA
Free Association NA NA 0.29% 33.2% With independence NA
Statehood 39% 46.3% 46.49% 61.3% 97.2% (yes) 52.52%
None of the above   NA NA 50.3% NA NA (no) 47.48%

“Commonwealth” won in 1967 and 1993, when it was widely believed that “enhanced commonwealth” was a real possibility. In 1998, when it was made clear that this option was not a possibility, voters refused independence, continued territory status, and free association, preferring “none of the above” over statehood. By 2012, statehood was the majority preference and it has remained the winning choice throughout this century.

Plebiscite fatigue

Puerto Rico officially demanded statehood through statehood bills several times during this century. Following the 2020 vote, leaders from different points of view got together to create the Puerto Rico Status Act, a compromise bill that calls for one more plebiscite — but this one would be federally sponsored and Congress would commit to take action after the vote. The Puerto Rico Status Act passed the House in 2022, but too late in the year to allow for a vote in the Senate.

This is the bill that is being considered in the House and Senate right now.

Many voters responded with “plebiscite fatigue.” Statehood has been the clear majority choice in every referendum held in this century, so why, many people asked, shouldn’t Congress just respect the vote and admit Puerto Rico as a state? Many commenters said that the additional vote required by the Puerto Rico Status Act is a delaying tactic.

Governor Pierluisi, in calling for yet another nonbinding referendum this year, is certainly risking more plebiscite fatigue. But his announcement makes it clear that this is not just another vote in a series of votes we hope Congress might someday notice. Rather, this is Puerto Rico’s show of determination. This is “a voting to enforce the will of an absolute majority of voters as expressed in the November 3, 2020, Plebiscite.”

The options

The ballot will include the same three options as are listed in the Puerto Rico Status Act:

  • statehood, meaning admission as a state on an equal footing with all the other states, with full protection of the U.S. Constitution and full citizenship
  • independence, meaning full sovereignty as an independent nation, no longer under the U.S. Constitution, and no longer a possession of the United States
  • free association, meaning full sovereignty with a Compact of Free Association with the United States, the terms of which will be negotiated

Only the votes for one of these options will be considered. “The absence of voters in the election or void or blank ballots cast shall never be used to suppress the intent of voters who democratically, voluntarily, and validly exercised their right,” the bulletin states.

The option of continuing as a territory will not be on the ballot. Neither will the fantasy of “enhanced commonwealth.” Nor will other hypothetical options such as reunification with Spain or becoming part of the state of Florida. History has shown that this will not sit well with everyone. Watch for boycotts followed by attempts to deny the results of the vote, whatever they may be.

For those of us who want equality and justice for Puerto Rico through statehood, the best outcome will be a strong, clear vote for statehood. True, this outcome has not stopped election denial efforts in the past. But seeing another vote in which the majority choose statehood might help Congress to grasp that Puerto Rico is ready for statehood, determined to be admitted, and fully deserving of the rights and responsibilities of statehood.

Make sure that you and your friends and family in Puerto Rico are registered to vote. Let’s get ready to speak up again for statehood.



One response

  1. RE: PR Status Plebiscite on non-Territorial Options-5 NOV 2024/Recommendations

    Dear Governor Pedro Pierluisi; RC Jennifer Gonzalez, We Hope you are doing well!

    The local PR Status Plebiscite scheduled for 5 NOV 2024 is a patriotic just cause for Equal Rights; a great step forward for fellow US Citizens-Veterans in the US Territory of Puerto Rico (with more US Citizens than 21 States) to democratically vote on a non-territorial (non-colonial) Status; end Federal discrimination-undemocratic control going on since 1898-for over 125 years! But, please, read below enclosures; recommendations to make the Plebiscite better; get more support.
    “The Federal Government should be the Servant of all the People; Not the Master of some!”
    The Plebiscite will put some pressure on our US Congress to do their sacred duty, to abide by the Declaration of Independence that calls for “consent of the governed”; our US Constitution that calls for fairness; equal rights; a Republican form of Government–a US Republic where the power resides with all “We the People” (that come first) in a Representative Democracy as the US Constitution is not fully applied to PR. (Please, read enclosures with facts; not political distortion.)

    However, the Status definitions in the local PR Plebiscite should not mirror the current bills under Congressional consideration-HR-2757/S. 3231-Puerto Rico Status Act) which should be amended to reflect viable Constitutional definitions; not deceive People as to the Status options-which should be:
    *STATEHOOD-MEANS: Admission to our diverse “UNION of STATES”– under US Constitution/ Laws/ Democracy; EQUAL US Citizenship with full Rights, Benefits, and Responsibilities; with PR-STATE Identity, Constitution, Flag, Sovereignty… as other States & other US Citizens have…
    *INDEPENDENCE- MEANS: Puerto Rico National Sovereignty; PR Constitution/Laws, PR Citizenship…; with loss of US Constitution & statutory US Citizenship, Rights, and Benefits…
    *INDEPENDENCE with Free Association PACT-MEANS: Puerto Rico National Sovereignty; PR Constitution/ Laws, PR Citizenship…; with loss of US Constitution & statutory US Citizenship, Rights, and Benefits… But, with a negotiated PACT between Independent Nations on Terms (like trade, defense, etc.) that can be terminated by either side.
    “How can a Nation be sovereign with the collective statutory Citizenship of another Nation?”
    The Congressional Plebiscite definitions confuse People as to what is “Independence” & “Independence with Free Association Pact” (incorrectly called “Sovereignty with Free Association”). Plus, the draft definitions state that statutory US Citizenship and Federal benefits are for Life, etc. But, statutory US Citizenship (per sources below) is not permanent; can be lost under Independence (With or Without a Free Association Pact). Also, it would place/impose a burden on any sovereign PR Government to control US benefits and other things which isn’t in the US Constitution.)
    “Only STATEHOOD guarantees a permanent US Citizenship with all rights, benefits, & responsibilities!”
    Don’t compromise on the truth or fact as they point to–statutory US Citizenship is not permanent. Let’s keep an open mind for new evidence to the contrary; not political distortion. Let reason prevail!
    +NOTE: “AI Co-Pilot” says (Summary)–“Yes, the source-basis of statutory U.S. citizenship for individuals born in Puerto Rico is indeed the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution1”
    • The U.S. Constitution contains two sources of citizenship: the Naturalization Clause and the Citizenship Clause1. However, for Puerto Rico, Congress invoked the Territories Clause to grant citizenship1.
    • The U.S. Code 1402, part of the Immigration and Nationality Act, confirmed U.S. citizenship for people born in Puerto Rico2. It declared that everyone born in Puerto Rico after January 13th, 1941, is a citizen of the United States at birth2.
    • However, it’s important to note that this is only true as long as Puerto Rico is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States2. If Puerto Rico were to become independent, people born in Puerto Rico would not continue to be birthright citizens of the United States2.
    • The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a person born a citizen of this country cannot lose their nationality unless they voluntarily and intentionally relinquish it1. However, because the citizenship of Puerto Ricans is statutory and not protected by the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, it could theoretically be revoked by the U.S. Congress2.
    +NOTES: US Citizenship (Types/Basis/Sources) Summary; Key Points–
    1. Individual Birthright Citizenship-“jus soli” (right of soil) per the 14th Amendment (States: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the US and of the State wherein they reside.” (unquestioned permanent US Citizenship) (US Territories are NOT mentioned or included…)
    2. Naturalization Citizenship (Individual)—process through which immigrants from other countries can also become citizens if they wish to … (per 14th Amendment) (unquestioned permanent US Citizenship)
    3. Acquired Citizenship (“jus sanguinis”-right of blood by descent) – those born in other Countries that acquired US citizenship from their US Citizen Parents-… (per US Congress-8 USC Code)
    4. Collective Statutory US Citizenship- per the US Territorial Clause; Insular Cases (1901-1925+); Jones Act (1917); 8 USC Code §1402 (which can be amended or revoked)–Ends upon Independence… The US Supreme Court (Insular Cases) has wrongly established that the US Constitution doesn’t fully apply to Puerto Rico, except for some broad rights that have not been defined (+Harris v Rosario-1980/Other Cases)…
    • Territorial Clause (1787) states: “US Congress shall have the Power to dispose of and make all rules and regulations respecting the Territory or other Property that belongs to the US.” (Un-democratic; outdated).
    • Insular Cases (1901-1925+ based on racism)-states–Puerto Rico is an “unincorporated US Territory; more foreign than domestic, belongs to, but, is not part of the US (soil)…”– resulting in a permanent “Separate and Un-Equal Status”/ 2d Class US Citizenship which goes against American values; a Representative Democracy! (Needs to be revoked.)
    “Best Option: PR Equality & Progress with STATEHOOD!”
    You are “Patriots of True Grit” that fight for a just cause-PR Equality! I remain at your service! THANKS for all the GREAT things you do for the Good of All/ our beloved-Family, Community, Puerto Rico, USA, and Humanity! God Bless!

    All the best! Respectfully,
    Dennis (Denny)
    DENNIS O. FREYTES (MPA, MHR, BBA); US Army Ret; Servant Leader
    FLORIDA VETERANS’ HALL OF FAME (FL Gov., House, Senate.)
    “Warriors of Good–Fight against Wrong, Bad, and Evil; for the Good of All!”

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