Ignorance about Statehood

The United States has not added a new state since 1959, so it’s no wonder there is widespread ignorance about the process of becoming a state. But news outlets should probably make an effort to get the facts right.

A recent news article included this claim:

“Republican and Democrat support would be needed for that to occur. Then, once approved and signed by the president, it would go out to all 50 state governments and 38 of the states would have to do give the final approval to entrance of Puerto Rico or any other state. It’s daunting. It’s a long process.”

We won’t embarrass them by sharing what news outlet this was, but their claim is that 38 states have to ratify statehood for Puerto Rico before Puerto Rico can become a state. They are saying that, after the president signs the admissions bill for Puerto Rico, they would have to ask all 50 current states to agree. Only if 38 states approved would Puerto Rico become a state, according to this claim.

It’s not true.

No ratification is needed

Here’s what the U.S. Constitution says about the admission of new states:

“New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

There is nothing there about ratification by other states. Nor has any state every been ratified by the previous states. It just isn’t true.

The source of the confusion

Amendments to the U.S. Constitution require ratification. 38 states out of the 50 total states must agree before an amendment can become law. Quite a few amendments to the Constitution have failed to be ratified.

Here are some examples:

  • The Equal Rights Amendment, which says that women should be legally equal to men
  • The Child Labor Amendment, which said that Congress — not the states — could make laws about workers under 18
  • The Washington DC Voting Rights Amendment, which proposed that U.S. citizens living in D.C. should get to vote as though D.C. were a state

In each case, fewer than 38 states ratified the proposed amendment. The Child Labor Amendment did not have an expiration date. 28 states ratified it; if 10 more states ratify it someday, it will become law. The other two have expired. They can no loner be ratified. If the United States decides to try again on either of those amendments, Congress will have to start over.

This is true for amendments to the Constitution, not for new states.

HR 1522 calls for ratification by the voters of Puerto Rico

Ratification is a confirming vote, approving a decision which has already been made. HR 1522, the Puerto Rico Statehood Admissions Bill of 2021, does require ratification — but not by states.

The bill specifies that the voters of Puerto Rico must ratify statehood before Puerto Rico becomes a state. This is the process used to admit Hawaii and Alaska. It has nothing to do with the ratification by states required for amendments to the Constitution. It is not required for statehood in general. It is just part of the current statehood bill.

We hope this clears up the confusion.

Too many people are confused about statehood. That’s why PR51st makes the effort to educate readers on the subject. We hope you will join us in this effort by sharing this article, and other information about the statehood effort, with your friends and family. When wee educate voters and legislators, were move closer to equality for Puerto Rico through statehood.

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