Puerto Rico voters chose statehood once again, in a referendum so simple — a yes/no vote statehood — that there can be no question about the results. 52% of the votes, a clear majority, said “Yes” to statehood.
Statehood won the plebiscites in 2012 and 2017 and Puerto Rico officially requested statehood in 2018. The 2020 vote confirms the earlier acts of self-determination. There is no longer any excuse to delay action.
Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, said, “I believe that the people of Puerto Rico assessed the importance of the statehood issue. The result is a clear mandate, so starting now I will push to move this in Washington.”
What should Washington do?
The U.S. Congress can admit Puerto Rico as a state at any time. Congress can make new states with a simple majority vote.
The Admission Clause of the Constitution says this:
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.
Other states don’t have to agree. The part about jurisdictions doesn’t apply to Puerto Rico. Congress makes the decision.
There is currently a statehood bill in Congress. Congress could vote on it now, giving President Trump a final chance to have a new state as part of his legacy. However, it is more likely that a new statehood bill will be proposed when the new Congress comes in in January.
“As Washington begins to prepare for a new session of Congress next January, the issue of equality and full voting rights for the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico through statehood has to be a high priority in the national agenda,” said George Laws García, Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Statehood Council. “Now, it’s no longer a matter of ‘if’ Puerto Rico will become a state, but ‘when’ it will become a state. For voters on the Island, the answer is simple: it should happen immediately.”
What should we do?
Anti-statehood factions are already trying to discredit the vote. We’re seeing articles claiming that the referendum was non-binding, as though this were meaningful in some way. A referendum is pretty much always non-binding, by definition.
None of the statehood votes which have led to admission for a territory has ever been binding.
And indeed, there have been states (Alabama, for example) which never held a referendum at all. It is not a requirement for statehood. It’s just a way to show Congress that the territory wants to become a state. Focusing on the non-binding nature of this and all statehood votes is just a tactic to make it seem less important.
We should work to let Congress know that it is important. A majority of voters chose statehood. Again. Tell your reps that statehood for Puerto Rico is important to you.