Puerto Rico Senate President Eduardo Bhatia has said that he would approve a yes/no vote on statehood for Puerto Rico, if the Congress would allow it.
A yes/no vote on statehood is what has been proposed by Rep. Pedro Pierluisi, the only representative Puerto Rico has in the U.S. legislature. There are funds set aside for a Federally-sponsored plebiscite in the current Federal budget, and a yes/no vote is one of the options that would meet the requirements of that planned vote.
It is what PR51st would like to see, too. It is what Hawaii and Alaska did to become states.
Hawaii’s ballot asked, “Shall Hawaii immediately be admitted into the Union as a state?” Hawaiian voters chose “yes” and Hawaii soon became a state.
If Puerto Rico’s voters once again voted for statehood as they did in 2012, Puerto Rico would clearly be on the path to statehood. If they voted “no,” then Puerto Rico could remain a territory or could work toward independence.
But the Commonwealth party currently in power in Puerto Rico has objected to the idea of a vote asking, “statehood: yes or no.” If they believed that the people of Puerto Rico do not want statehood, there would be no reason for them to object; a “no” on statehood would leave Puerto Rico in its current territorial status.
They have been worried that statehood would win.
Senate President Eduardo Bhatia was reported in an Associated Press story last year as saying that the vote “should include only options supported by Puerto Ricans.” Since independence received only about 5% of the votes in the last plebiscite (and not much more in previous votes), it may be that the Senate President is suggesting that the plebiscite does not need to be a three-way vote representing all three of Puerto Rico’s political parties: statehood, independence, and commonwealth.
However, Bhatia’s statement that he would support the vote if Congress authorized it was accompanied by his claim that Congress would not authorize a yes/no vote on statehood.
HR 2000, a bill to hold a yes/no vote on statehood for Puerto Rico, was supported by 132 members of Congress last year, in addition to Rep. Pierluisi and three senators. It was also the second most supported bill at Cosponsor.gov, a site designed to allow citizens to express their support for bills.
The current bill, which provides $2.5 million for a new plebiscite, requires that the options on the ballot be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. All the options on the ballot would have to be acceptable under the U.S. Constitution. Statehood, independence, and territory status would all be viable options for Puerto Rico. Since independence has so little support, a yes/no vote on statehood would essentially allow Puerto Rico to choose between statehood and the current situation.
Puerto Rico Senate President Eduardo Bhatia, we support you in your efforts to resolve the status of Puerto Rico at last. We urge you to take action to make sure that the first Federally-funded plebiscite takes place soon.