Jose Aponte-Hernandez, former Speaker of the House for Puerto Rico, wrote an article at The Hill claiming that Puerto Rico has taken a giant leap toward statehood.
The people of Puerto Rico voted in favor of statehood in the last referendum on the subject in 2012. While there has been some fancy math from supporters of the status quo trying to argue that this vote should not count, the numbers are in fact clear. The ballot asked two questions:
- Do you agree that Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of territorial status?
- Yes: 46%
- No: 54%
- Irrespective of your answer to the first question, indicate which of the following non-territorial options you prefer.
- Statehood: 61%
- Independence: 5%
- Sovereign Free Associated State: 33%
There were blank ballots, but U.S. elections do not try to guess the intentions of people who leave a question on a ballot blank. A blank ballot is not a vote, and has no effect on the results of an election.
Nonetheless, the federal government has set aside funds for the first federally-sponsored plebiscite on statehood, to make certain that there can be no confusion about the will of the people.
The current governor said he would hold the vote in 2016, but did not do so. The governor-elect, statehood supporter Ricardo Rossello, has promised that he will follow through.
But Puerto Rico has held referenda before, and the U.S. Congress — the only people who can actually accomplish statehood for Puerto Rico — have not taken action.
So why does Aponte-Hernandez think this time will be different?
“The Republican Platform, adopted at this summer’s National Convention clearly states that the GOP will respect the will of the people of Puerto Rico,” says the author, “free and democratically expressed in the 2012 status referendum in which 54 percent of the voters rejected the current colonial relationship with the U.S. In that same election, 61 percent of people that participated chose statehood as a final solution to an almost never ending story of our political relation with the nation.”
This platform, he says, provides a mandate for both Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, to take action. With a Republican president in place, the Republican Congress should be more active and more decisive than they have been. The new governor and new Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez are both supporters of statehood.
In other words, everyone is now on the same page.
Let your legislators know that you also support statehood for Puerto Rico. It is the job of the Congress to represent the people. If they know that you care about statehood, they will also have to care.