Puerto Rico voted for statehood in 2012. Yet there has been widespread misinterpretation of that vote.
The misinterpretation of the 2012 vote for statehood in Puerto Rico is historically, legally and politically incorrect. The total number of votes cast in the 2012 vote for statehood on the second question was greater than the total number of votes for the current status on the first question. Statehood won, end of discussion as to objective meaning of the 2012 vote.
That was a more clear and definitive democratic vote than Congress relied on in admitting several territories as states in the past. In addition, the 54% vote to end the current status on the first question means the governed do not consent to the form of government under which they are living. In case anyone has forgotten, under the Declaration of Independence it is a founding principle of our republic that the just powers of government are derived by consent of the governed.
Of the 32 territories that became states, the admissions act passed by Congress typically provided that the territory had to establish a state government “not repugnant to the principles of the Declaration of Independence.” That means our nation still values the principles of government by consent.
The reference made to past plebiscites presupposes previous votes should be treated as binding, while the most recent vote was not binding. Yet, all previous votes were legally and politically inconclusive because no status option on any prior ballot received a majority vote! That was due to the inclusion on the ballots in earlier votes of a spoiler option that combined features of both statehood and independent nationhood determined by Congress and the federal courts to be unconstitutional.
Thus, those votes were rigged to prevent a majority vote on the actual options of statehood with equal U.S. citizenship or nationhood with citizenship only of a new sovereign country of Puerto Rico. The 2012 vote was the first and only vote in Puerto Rico’s history in which voters were offered real choices between real status options.
It is simply wrong to argue that historic 2012 vote is meaningless because some who voted on the first question that produced a 54% majority to end the current status did not also vote on the second question that produced a 61% majority for statehood rather than separate nationhood. Under U.S. and international law, blank ballots do not count unless the ballot instructions so state pursuant to applicable law.
It is anti-democratic and promotes an imperialist and colonialist condition in Puerto Rico for the shrinking anti-statehood faction in Puerto Rico to argue that blank votes should be counted and assigned a meaning when that has no basis in law or fact. That argument is aligned with that anti-democratic position of imperialists and colonialists in the shrinking anti-statehood faction in the U.S. mainland.
As correctly noted by PR51ST, the bipartisan leadership in Congress rejected the anti-democratic and anti-statehood propaganda, and recognized the locally sponsored 2012 vote as a valid act of self-determination. On that basis, Congress in 2014 authorized the first federally sponsored referendum in Puerto Rico to confirm the results of the 2012 vote. That is an historic step forward consistent with the great anti-colonial tradition pursuant to which 32 territories with U.S. citizen populations became states.
It also can be useful to note that one U.S. territory never granted U.S. citizenship and determined by Congress in 1916 not eligible for statehood became the Republic of the Philippines.
It never hurts to know one’s history before condemning 3.5 million U.S. citizens to an inferior and less than equal status repugnant to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Northwest Ordinance as founding documents of our nation.