Fred Costello is running for Congress in Florida’s 6th district. His rival John Ward made headlines by saying that Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be able to register to vote in Florida, and that they should go back to Puerto Rico, “where they belong.”
Costello responded to Ward by saying, ” “I absolutely disagree. Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States of America. They have a right to go anywhere in the United States.”
But that’s not what Costello meant when he sent out a press release titled “Let Puerto Rico Vote!”
Costello’s calling for another referendum on Puerto Rico’s political status.
He wants Congress to “authorize a binding plebiscite for the residents of Puerto Rico to determine their own future regarding statehood.”
A binding plebiscite
Puerto Rico has voted in five plebiscites on political status over the years. Once the voters chose an “enhanced commonwealth” option defined in a way that the U.S. government has rejected over and over. The federal government ignored that vote. Twice — the two most recent votes, in 2012 and 2017 — voters chose statehood. Shenanigans by the anti-statehood party and the disruption of Hurricane Maria may have kept Congress from taking action on those votes.
Whatever the reason, Congress has failed to take action. Congress failed to take action on other territories’ votes for statehood in the past, too. Those territories are all now states.
Costello is asking for one more vote. Plebiscites are normally non-binding, but Costello wants this vote to be binding. That means that if voters choose statehood again, Congress will be required to sit up and take notice.
“The residents of Puerto Rico deserve the right to determine their own destiny,” Costello says. “After more than a century as a territory of the United States and more than 500 years under colonial rule, it’s time for Congress to stop treating our Puerto Rican neighbors like second class citizens. Let Puerto Rico vote on statehood.”
Statehood is bipartisan
Constello is a Republican. Like a number of other Republicans who have stepped up to endorse statehood for Puerto Rico, Costello is living proof that statehood is a bipartisan issue. “This is not about political parties or the calculus of winning elections,” he said. “It’s about equal rights for all Americans.”