PR51st Sets the Record Straight
A point-by-point rebuttal to the April 30 editorial by the National Review on Puerto Rico statehood appears below. For NR readers who want real facts, here is an overview of the historical context of Puerto Rico’s current status and the options for change.
General Overview and Background:
Since 1796 the U.S. citizens of 32 territories acquired and governed under federal law have achieved admission to fully equal rights and duties of citizenship through admission to statehood. The 3.6 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico are constituted under federal law as the last large and populous American territory currently eligible for admission to the union.
There are more U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico than 22 states. When residents of the territory are combined with 4 million U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico who moved to the 50 states for equal rights and opportunity denied back home on the island, there are more Americans from Puerto Rico within the border of our nation than the population of 38 states.
Never in U.S. history has an American territory with a large U.S. citizen population meeting the historical and constitutional criteria for statehood been denied statehood permanently. The experience of Americans in those 32 other territories with republican constitutions adopted under federal law that have been admitted to the union of states demonstrate that statehood for Puerto Rico is historically inevitable.
That is not bold or brash, it is simply historical logic grounded in the Northwest Ordinance, a founding document of the Republic providing for admission of new states. That national charter for formation of new states recognizes that for U.S. citizens in a territory statehood is the only way to achieve equality and liberty, as well and cultural integration and economic sustainability, under the Constitution of the United States.
It is true, however, that in several territories that became states commercial and political special interests profiting from territorial status often have delayed statehood. For example, in the territories that became the states of Mississippi and Indiana, and in the newest states of Alaska and Hawaii, vested interests spent lavishly to delay statehood, sometimes for decades, but eventual admission to the union has proven historically inevitable.
Knowing this, vested interests in Puerto Rico profiting under the current territorial regime in the capital of San Juan, the oldest city in the United States, shrewdly employ several leading “conservative” mercenaries and mouthpieces in their stable of anti-statehood lobbyists. Every time Puerto Rico’s steady march to statehood advances, like clockwork these agents of confusion for corporate and partisan special interests plant disinformation in the media.
Time and again the sold out “conservatives” who oppose orderly status resolution for millions of our fellow citizens in the territory bring out the worst in all of us with propaganda of the same journalistically unethical nature as the NR editorial on Puerto Rico. The scatological attack on Governor Bush for supporting democratic self-determination in the great tradition of the Northwest Ordinance for the battle proven patriotic U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico is lamentably typical.
The next NR target after Bush no doubt will be U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, who, like former Governor Bush, understands the Puerto Rico status issue better than most politicians in Washington. This is not because they are pandering for the Hispanic vote, as NR insinuates, but because they have had the duty to represent tens of thousands of voters in Florida who are from Puerto Rico.
Bush and Rubio know federal support for a vote allowing self-determination on statehood is the bare minimum that Congress must do, now that 61% of voters in the territory approved statehood in a 2012 local referendum. Indeed, by supporting a federally sponsored referendum to confirm that 2012 status vote, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are taking a far less committed position than Ronald Reagan, who openly and unabashedly supported admission of Puerto Rico as the 51st state.
This was due not only to Reagan’s intuitive optimism about the mystical power American idea to bring all people who embrace it to realization of their full social, political and economic potential. It also was because President Reagan predicted the failure of the FDR New Deal and LBJ Great Society social engineering experiment in Puerto Rico called “commonwealth.”
Fake “conservatives” hired by the far left in Puerto Rico tried to corrupt Reagan’s policy on Puerto Rico. Unwaveringly, he stayed the course, openly declaring that the left wing “commonwealth” scheme to continue the territorial status quo was the real cause of economic stagnation in Puerto Rico.
President Reagan’s own words at different times over the years remind us of the historical inevitability that the people of Puerto Rico will act not as some pollster’s Hispanic demographic, but as our patriotic fellow Americans, to redeem the promise of U.S. citizenship conferred by Congress 98 years ago:
“As a ‘commonwealth’ Puerto Rico is now neither a state nor independent, and thereby has a historically unnatural status…” Candidate Ronald Reagan, New York Times Op-Ed 1980
“In statehood, the language and culture of the island – rich in tradition – would be respected, for in the United States the cultures of the world live together with pride…To show the world that the American idea can work in Puerto Rico is to show the world that our idea can work everywhere.” President Ronald Reagan, The White House, 1982
True conservatives want to end federal taxpayer subsidies for the corrupt left wing failed client state “commonwealth” model of government in Puerto Rico. Fasten your seat belts for the following deconstruction of the intellectually dishonest content of the National Review’s unscrupulous assault on the truth about statehood for Puerto Rico.
NATIONAL REVIEW EDITORIAL ON STATEHOOD FOR PUERTO RICO:
National Review Fallacy #1: NR embraces anti-statehood logic that ballot is stacked for statehood because it is accurate about the actual features of both the current status and statehood.
NR: “Bush, like some congressmen, says Puerto Rico should have a new up-or-down plebiscite, but even if this would yield a new result, it would be reckless. In any referendum, permanent change of status should hinge on some supermajority level of support, as, say, constitutional amendments do. We do not want ambivalent states.”
Truth: By “some Congressmen” perhaps NR means the 104 Members in the U.S. House of Representatives sponsoring H.R. 727, a bipartisan bill to enable Puerto Rico to petition for admission on terms approved by Congress, including a federally sponsored vote on statehood to confirm the 2012 vote for statehood.
H.R. 727 recognizes that since 1789 when the first Congress ratified the Northwest Ordinance no otherwise statehood-eligible American territory with a U.S. citizen population that has petitioned for statehood by referendum or elected representation has been denied admission to the union.
Of the 32 U.S. territories populated by American citizens that became states, several would have been denied admission based on NR demand for unambiguous super-majorities, free of the robust debate NR disdainfully interprets as disqualifying “ambivalence.”
For example, Wisconsin voted against statehood three times, with admission to the union getting only 25%, 30%, 22% of the vote, until Congress defined terms for transition and voters finally approved statehood. In Colorado, statehood received 45% of the vote in a referendum, but later was admitted to the Union based on approval of a state constitution without any follow up referendum at all. Nebraska voted for statehood by 47% and was still admitted based on a legislative petition only.
Indeed, just 15 of 32 territories that became states had referendum votes on statehood, with or without other options on the ballot. If the NR demand that Puerto Rico be singled out for arbitrary treatment had been applied, the 15 territories that petitioned for admission and became states without status votes would still be territories that like Puerto Rico would have no voting representation in Congress or the presidential vote.
National Review Fallacy #2: After a century within U.S. national borders U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico are too poor and too many speak Spanish first to succeed as a state
NR: “If Puerto Rico became a state…it would be twice as poor as the poorest of the 50 states, and it would of course be the first Spanish-speaking one.”
Truth: From Louisiana to Hawaii some new states have come into the Union far poorer, culturally and linguistically more diverse and in economic crisis, compared to states. In each case Congress recognized that those challenges to territorial integration and convergence with the national economy would get worse as long as territorial status continued.
Concomitantly, every territory admitted to statehood has experienced sustainable growth until able to pay its own way in the union. The historical evidence and current metrics demonstrate Puerto Rico will be no exception.
NR is simply wrong as well in making the ignorant misrepresentation that Puerto Rico would be the first “Spanish speaking” state. At the time of admission to statehood New Mexico had a Spanish only population proportionally comparable if not higher than that of Puerto Rico today.
Records indicate there are more bilingual English speakers in Puerto Rico today than in New Mexico when admitted. In fact, English was spoken by a far greater percentage in Puerto Rico until the anti-statehood “commonwealth” regime outlawed English education in the public schools.
In the case of New Mexico it was found necessary to include a provision in the statehood constitution preventing government discrimination against citizens who either spoke only English or only Spanish, making both in effect official languages of the state. This was to protect English speakers not Spanish speakers.
New Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii (where English tests for government licensing sparked civil strife) each became English-speaking states. In the same way, Puerto Rico will adapt culturally and linguistically to prosper and succeed in America, keeping its own language and culture alive without federal interference.
National Review Fallacy #3: Results of inconclusive status votes in past are more important than the conclusive statehood vote in 2012.
NR: “‘Puerto Rican citizens — U.S. citizens — ought to have the right to determine whether they want to be a state,’ Jeb Bush said this week. But they have had the right to determine that several times, and they seem to have determined the answer: No… In three previous referenda (1967, 1993, and 1998), statehood was voted down outright.”
Truth: Locally conducted votes in 1993 and 1998 resulted in a virtual dead heat with votes in the 46%-48% range for statehood and a deceptive definition stacking the deck in favor of the current territorial status. Still, no option won a majority. Statehood and territorial status quo are the only options allowing continued U.S. citizenship, and statehood is the only option allowing equal rights and duties of citizenship with all other citizens. The option of separate nationhood would end U.S. citizenship, explaining why that choice has never received more than 5% of the vote.
An earlier vote in 1967 is vestigial and overtaken by history, because there was confusion about whether “commonwealth” was territorial or a post-territorial status of “nationhood”. The federal courts later confirmed “commonwealth” remains a territorial status subject to plenary power of Congress to amend the local constitution or nullify local law.
In defiance of federal law during the 1993 vote “commonwealth” again was defined as “nationhood,” but with U.S. citizenship, once more confusing voters. When territorial “commonwealth” was defined accurately in 1998 it got less than 1% of the vote, and 50.2% voted for “None of the Above.” Given this tortured history of past votes, NR clearly is deliberately misleading readers when it reports simplistically that statehood was “voted down outright” in “three previous referenda.”
National Review Fallacy #4: The 2012 majority votes to end territorial status and seek statehood was actually a defeat of statehood in favor of territorial status
NR: “The most recent occasion for Puerto Ricans to weigh in was 2012, when they technically did end up voting for statehood — in a ballot process that would make Vladimir Putin blush.”
Truth: The 2012 vote was conducted under the territorial constitution approved by Congress in 1952. There is no record of irregularities or voter fraud, and the Puerto Rico Elections Commission formally and lawfully certified the results: 54% voted on the first question to end territorial status, and 61% voted on a second question for statehood.
To compare a vote conducted under democratic self-government mechanisms and a self-determination election process authorized by federal law to the Russia-Crimea 2014 status referendum, and on that basis to argue that statehood was approved “technically,” is dishonest anti-democratic demagoguery by NR editors.
President Reagan personally approved and authorized political status votes for U.S. governed island territories in the Pacific in 1983, using the same two-tiered ballot with an up-or-down vote on the status quo and a second question on alternate options as the 2012 status vote in Puerto Rico. Thus, in its deceptive attack on the 2012 Puerto Rico vote, by implication NR has compared Ronald Reagan’s democratic practices to those of Vladimir Putin in the Crimea status vote.
NR: “Voters…disapproved of their current status, 54–46, a margin that can be in large part explained by the small but non-negligible share of Puerto Ricans who want complete independence.”
Truth: Nonsense by NR, this is gibberish. This absurdly inept statement refers to the vote on the first ballot question, which didn’t even address independence, but instead gave all voters a clean up-or-down vote on the current territorial status. A clear majority voted to end the current territorial status, thereby rejecting the “commonwealth” system of limited local self-government, without full and equal rights and duties of U.S. citizenship. Who among editors at NR came up with the phrase “small but non-negligible” anyway? What does that even mean? For the record, however, Vermont, Texas, Alaska and Hawaii historically had independence movements larger in proportion to population and at times far more ideologically militant than Puerto Rico’s.
NR: “The second question offered three choices for the new status — independence, a new unclear form of ‘free association,’ or statehood — and only 44 percent of all voters chose statehood.”
Truth: The assertion that statehood got 44% of the vote is based on a cynical political fiction reducing legally certified votes for statehood by the number of ballots left blank on the second question that included statehood.
As a political sleight of hand that fabrication backfires, because even if the blank ballots are deducted from the statehood vote, statehood still received more votes on the second question than the current territorial status (aka “commonwealth”) received on the first question.
NR: “Because more than half a million voters skipped the second question entirely, as the effort’s opponents had encouraged, a majority of voters who answered the question picked statehood.”
Truth: Utterly befuddled. In with can be attributed only to willful sloppiness, NR states that statehood got a majority because some voters left the question that included statehood blank. NR can’t have it both ways, claiming statehood got 44% rather than the 61% by deducting the number of blank ballots, on one hand, while on the other hand claiming the blank votes enabled statehood to garner a majority.
This is incompetent, insensible, irrational drivel, insulting to NR readers. More fundamentally, there is no basis in American law to ascribe any meaning to blank ballots unless the ballot instructs voters that blank ballots will be counted as an affirmative vote.
In 1984 President Reagan, Congress and the federal courts accepted and upheld certified results in Pacific territories in which more than 70% of ballots were left blank on a second question about alternate status choices.
Similarly, if blank ballots were counted against statehood, the territory that is now the State of Washington would not have been admitted to the Union, since the issue of ratifying a statehood constitution appeared on a general election ballot. A large number of voters who cast ballots for the offices to be created by the statehood constitution if ratified did not cast votes on the separate question of ratification for the proposed statehood constitution.
To prevent the success of a democratic mandate for statehood, anti-statehood allies in Congress have shown their true colors by attacking the legitimacy of the 2012 vote, and alleging that it was based on a “tortured ballot” that “stacked the deck” for statehood and “rigged” the results. Specifically, the anti-statehood alliance has alleged that the two-tier ballot, with the first question in the form of an up or down vote on the current status, followed by a second question on statehood or separate nationhood, somehow was used to “trick” voters into voting in clear majorities to reject the status quo and seek statehood.
Of course, what the anti-statehood alliance seeks to achieve is a return to the three-way ballot that increases the odds against clear majority vote to change the status quo. The two tiered ballot ended the anti-statehood alliance ability to suppress a majority vote by including impossible unconstitutional statehood/nationhood options on the ballot, which is why it became necessary to argue that the two-tiered ballot was “rigged.”
To the contrary, the two-stage ballot format was based on long standing federal territorial law and policy governing self-determination votes in U.S. governed territories. The specific two-tiered ballot used in the 2012 vote in Puerto Rico was promulgated under President Ronald Reagan in 1983, in order to overcome political fragmentation in territorial status votes in the Pacific island territories. This was after it became clear multi-option ballots produced pluralities that perpetuated sub-optimal status quo and made majority votes for change virtually impossible to achieve.
The effectiveness of the Reagan Administration model for territorial status self-determination employing two-tiered balloting on status options has been recognized by Congress and every subsequent President. The ballot format endorsed by Reagan clarified and accentuated differentiation of status options to enable true majority rule to be achieved, and ushered in an historic status resolution for the U.S. administered U.N. Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1983.
The logic and efficacy of the Reagan approach was confirmed in 2007 when the White House issued the Report by the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status, an interagency body established by President Clinton and relied upon to formulate Puerto Rico policy by every President since. The 2007 report made the following recommendations:
“The Task Force continues to believe that the two-stage plebiscite would provide clearer guidance for Congress than other procedures in which it is possible that none of the options would win a majority vote. At the same time, the Task Force’s recommendations do not preclude alternative action by Puerto Rico itself to express its views to Congress…The Task Force reiterates its prior recommendations that Congress provide for a federally sanctioned plebiscite in which the people of Puerto Rico will be allowed to state whether they wish to maintain the current status or to pursue a constitutionally viable path to a permanent non- territorial status…If the people of Puerto Rico elect to pursue a permanent non-territorial status Congress should provide for an additional plebiscite to allow the people of Puerto Rico to choose between…statehood or independence.”
Despite an overwhelming record before Congress confirming the territorial law and policy predicates of the recommendations contained in the 2007 White House report, as well as substantial bipartisan support for legislation consistent with that record, Congress failed to adopt legislation allowing informed self- determination based on the two-stage model for presenting status options to resolve the political status of Puerto Rico.
In accordance with the White House report inviting Puerto Rico to act if Congress did not, the 2012 status vote in Puerto Rico was conducted in a manner consistent with the Task Force recommendations. Indeed, the 2012 vote was conducted in accordance with federal law in the sense that Congress authorized and ratified the Constitution of Puerto Rico, pursuant to which the 2012 referendum was duly constituted and conducted.
In that context, it bears emphasis that the two-tier ballot format relied upon in the 2012 Puerto Rico status vote was relied upon many years earlier by President Ronald Reagan, in his message to Congress dated March 30, 1984, urging ratification of treaties of free association resolving the political status of the U.S. administered Pacific islands. In that message President Reagan cited and praised “impressive majorities” in U.S. sponsored status votes using the same ballot structure prescribed by the Legislative Assembly in Puerto Rico for the 2012 vote.
Specifically, in 1983 status votes were conducted for the Pacific islands liberated by the U.S. in WWII and governed for four decades by the federal government under international agreements approved by the U.S. and United Nations. The ballot was based on a two tiered model with an up or down vote on the status option in “first contention,” meaning a status option that exists but is not permanent, or that is proposed as a new status.
This ballot format then provides that once the status option voted on the first question is addressed by voters, the second question then ascertains voter preferences on alternative options available under U.S. and international law. This makes the vote on the principal proposed option a separate question to be decided, but preserves the right of voters to express views on the alternative options separately as well.
So instead of pitting a wide variety of past, present and future options against one another, the two-tiered ballot allows the lead options and alternatives to be addressed separately.
In a Concurrent Resolution of the House and Senate, the U.S. Congress ratified the free association treaties and a new political status for the U.S. governed islands of the western Pacific. In so doing, Congress expressly declared in P.L. 99-239 that the “Compact of Free Association was approved by majorities…in United Nations observed plebiscites,” thereby accepting the outcome of the two-tiered territorial self- determination ballot employed by Puerto Rico in 2012.
The results of the U.S. sponsored status votes of 1983 based on the two-tiered political status option ballot were formally recognized as valid acts of self-determination by the United Nations. Specifically, on June 13, 1984, the U.N. Trusteeship Council reported to the General Assembly and Security Council as follows:
“The Council takes note of the reports of the visiting missions which observed the plebiscites in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. It endorses the mission conclusions that, despite some administrative shortcomings, both plebiscites were run by the constitutional government so as to ensure the free and fair expression of the wishes of the people.”
In definitive rebuttal to the assertion that the 2012 vote in Puerto Rico was “rigged,” consider the following points:
· Following the admission of the Alaska and Hawaii territories as states and disposition of U.S. interests in the Panama Canal Zone, the Pacific island free association status votes are the most recent example in U.S. history of territory administered by the United States achieving a new political status.
· The two-tiered political status self-determination ballot model was employed and relied upon by the U.S. under President Reagan, and the results were accepted on a bipartisan basis by the U.S. Congress, as well as the United Nations.
· By adopting the two-tiered status option ballot for the 2012 status vote the Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico followed a precedent recognized as valid under U.S. domestic and international law, and even further proposed in 2007 by the Bush White House based on the Report of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status released that year.
Finally, in connection the two-tiered ballot format employed in the 2012 status vote in Puerto Rico, it should be noted that a similar ballot format was contained in a bill on self-determination for Puerto Rico introduced in 1996 by the Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Don Young of Alaska. H.R. 3024 proposed a two-tier ballot with exceptionally precise options (see, House Report 104-713, Part 1, July 26, 1996.
The first part of the ballot asked voters to choose between two options, the current status with limited self-government subject to the territorial powers of Congress, or to seek a new status with full self-government based on options defined by U.S. and international law. The second part of the ballot instructed voters, in the event a majority voted on part one of the ballot to seek a new status, to express their preference between statehood, free association or independence.
The ballot language in H.R. 3024 needed to be simplified for translation, but before that could be accomplished the bill was amended in committee at behest of the anti-statehood status quo party in Puerto Rico. The amendments reduced the ballot to a one-part contest between multiple options, thereby virtually assuring a plurality instead of a majority vote.
In 1998 a later version of the “Young Bill” on Puerto Rico status, H.R. 856, finally passed in the House of Representatives. It contained the most accurate status option definitions ever presented to the voters in Puerto Rico, but because of political pressure from anti-statehood interests the two-tier ballot format was not restored to enable a true majority on the real choice to emerge.
Still, in the Report to the U.S. House of Representatives by the Committee on Resources regarding the 1998 Young Bill that passed the House (Rept. 105-131, Part 1, June 12, 1997), the Committee noted with respect to the H.R. 3024, the 1996 version of the Young Bill, as follows:
“In formulating H.R. 3024 in the 104th Congress so that complex issues could be sorted out, the Committee originally presented a two-part ballot in an attempt to distinguish between the options for full self-government and continuation of a less than fully self-governing status, and to clarify the legal nature of the present commonwealth structure for self-government and a local constitution subject to the federal constitutional process. Because this good faith attempt to be truthful with the people of Puerto Rico was unfortunately portrayed by many in Puerto Rico as ‘unfair’ and the matter become politicized, the Committee agreed to a one part ballot with three options presented side-by-side – commonwealth, independence and statehood.”
When the Senate balked in 1998 at passage of the Young Bill the local government conducted its own vote under local law using the House-passed definitions, but the results where even more inclusive than ever. While the statehood vote inched up and approached 50%, without adequate legal or political analysis a “None of the Above” option was included on the ballot and garnered 50.2% of the vote!
In 2012 the local government wisely adopted the two-tier ballot format based on the 1996 Young Bill, and they did not repeat the mistake of 1998 by adding a “None of the Above” option. Both those features of the 2012 ballot add to its credibility and legitimacy.
There is no better evidence of the political desperation and intellectual dishonesty to the anti-statehood alliance than the pathetic attempt to discredit the 61% majority vote for statehood on the second ballot question. Thus, the claim by anti-statehood leaders is that only 44% of voters favored statehood “if blank ballots are counted as votes against statehood.”
This evokes the image of failed dictatorships, in which petty tyrants become very creative in very depraved ways to “interpret” voting results to enable themselves stay in power. That perhaps can be expected of the anti-statehood party in Puerto Rico, but not its allies in the U.S Congress.
It is a serious matter when a member of Congress repudiates the rule of federal and local law, and urges Congress to disregard the official results certified by a duly-constituted government agency responsible under federal and local laws for administration of elections. When done in reliance on political propaganda of the ruling political party that opposed the options receiving a majority of votes in the referendum, it is anti-democratic political slander.
In this case, the Puerto Rico State Election Commission formally and officially certified the results of the vote, and declared that statehood received 834,191 votes, or 61.2% of the valid votes cast on the second ballot question. The PRSEC also certified that 828,077 votes were cast in favor of the current status on the first ballot question.
That means that statehood received more votes in the referendum than the current status, even though the status quo party campaigned hard urging voters to support the current status on the first ballot question and boycott the second question where statehood appeared as an option.
The first question on the ballot was a straightforward up or down vote on the current status, and the certified result was that only 46.03% of the votes cast on the first question on the ballot approved continuation of the present status. One supposes that is why the status quo party tried to nullify the 2012 status vote results when it assumed power after the election.
Specifically, the 44% statehood vote computation cited by those attacking the 2012 vote results is based on the dangerous anti-democratic fiction that blank ballots on the second ballot question count in determining the percentages of votes cast for the options on each of the two ballot questions.
Not only is the 44% tally of statehood votes a falsehood, but regardless of whether the blank ballots are counted or not, again, the over-arching truth is that the number of voters who cast ballots for the current status (828,077) on the first question is lower than the number of voters who cast ballots in favor of statehood on the second ballot question (834,191). In a head to head match-up, statehood beat the territorial relationship.
Regardless of what percentages are assigned to the vote for the current status or for statehood based on differing interpretations of the vote tallies, the result of the vote on the first question was that the current status was rejected by the majority of voters in a plebiscite in which 78.19% of registered voters cast ballots.
On the second question statehood received the highest number of votes, and the official result lawfully certified by the State Election Commission, an agency duly-constituted consistent with applicable federal and local law, was that statehood received a 61.2% majority vote.
As a post-plebiscite political stunt the Governor and local legislature controlled by the local political party that favors the status quo issued propagandistic pronouncements brazenly revising the validly certified results, based on anti-democratic gimmickry using blank ballots on the second ballot question to nullify validly cast votes and disenfranchise voters who voted on both the first and second question.
As already noted, the local political party favoring the current status urged voters to cast ballots in favor of the current status in the up or down vote on the first question, but urged a boycott of the second question. That can be recognized as an interesting political dynamic in the pre-plebiscite campaign, but attributing a specific legal meaning to blank ballots is an exercise in proto-fascist ideological abstraction.
Indeed, it is an affront to the rule of law and principle of government by consent of the governed to assert that any specific legal or democratic political meaning can be ascribed to blank ballots. If the votes tallied for propositions or candidates on an election ballot are to be reduced by the number of blank ballots, then majority and even plurality voting as we know it would fall into chaotic disarray. Why not also count blank ballots on races between candidates, or even count the number of registered voters who do not cast ballots?
In the territorial self-determination and political status vote context, the notion or idea that blank ballots can be recognized officially or interpreted meaningfully arose in 1984 and was rejected by President Reagan, the U.S. Congress the federal courts and the United Nations.
Specifically, on April 10, 1984, the Chairman of the United Nations Visiting Mission to observe the plebiscite in the Marshall Islands transmitted its report on the Marshall Islands political status vote to Secretary-General of the United Nations. In that report the Chief Electoral Officer of the Marshall Islands reported the vote tallies from 24 islands and atolls.
The officially certified result of the votes cast on the first question on the ballot was that a new status under the Compact of Free Association was approved by 58% of the voters. In the official counting and tabulation forms showing results for the second ballot question, allowing voters to express a preference for other status options, reported that fully 70% of the voters left the second question on the ballot blank.
The report of the U.N. Visiting Mission stated:
“Although care was taken in the political education programme to explain independence and commonwealth status, over 70 percent of the voters did not fill in part two of the ballot.”
That fact received no further comment from self-determination and suffrage experts in U.N. proceedings after President Reagan transmitted the vote results and free association agreements to Congress, or during Congressional hearings on ratification of the free association treaties. The free association treaties were challenged in the federal as well.
In none of these forums of exacting scrutiny were the ratification votes certified by the local election officials and reported by the U.N. Visiting Mission either increased, reduced based on the blank ballots. Nor was the finality of the vote results ever questioned based on the large percentage of blank ballots.