2020 Puerto Rico Plebiscite

Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced has announced a new status vote for Puerto Rico. It will take place alongside the general election on November 3rd, 2020, and will contain one question:

“Shall Puerto Rico immediately be admitted to the Union as a State?”

This is the same format Hawaii and Alaska used in the 1950s, when they became states.

George Garcia Laws lays out the details in this video:

Laws Garcia responds to those who are saying that Puerto Rico should strengthen its economy before holding a new referendum. “It basically is condemning Puerto Rico to perpetually stay in the circumstance it’s in right now, because under the current territory status there are structural limitations to how Puerto Rico’s economy can grow.”

Historically, territories have not been expected to “get their house in order” before becoming states. Kansas and Minnesota were just two of the states that experienced serious hard times when they were territories. Admittance as states made the difference.

Laws Garcia also points out that the status referendum won’t change Puerto Rico’s status by itself. Minnesota never even held a referendum on status. Statehood actually comes from Congress.

Previous plebiscites

Puerto Rico has held five plebiscites so far. The figures below, compiled by Wikipedia, show the percentages voting for each of the status options in each of the referenda. In the 2012 vote, there was a question asking whether voters accepted the current territorial status; 46% said yes and 54% said no. “None of the above” was an option in 1998.

1967 1993 1998 2012 2017
Independence 0.6% 4.4% 2.54% 5.5% 1.5%
Commonwealth 60.4% 48.6% 0.06% NA 1.32%
Free Association NA NA 0.29% 33.2% NA
Statehood 39.0% 46.3% 46.49% 61.3% 97.18%
None of the above NA NA 50.3% NA NA


Apart from these unusual additions, we can see that Independence has never achieved more than 5% of the votes.

The “commonwealth” option, which has had various definitions over the years, has had votes ranging from 0.06% to 60%. However, the actual definition of “commonwealth” according to the federal government is simply the current territorial status.

Statehood’s votes have increased steadily in each plebiscite.


We must make sure that Puerto Rico voters register, that they fully understand the status options, and that they get out to vote in November.

We must also make sure that Congress accepts their responsibility to take action after the next — the final — plebiscite.


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4 Responses

  1. The unincorporated territory status of PR has always been the problem. The status benefits few elitist (Foreign tax heaven for multinationals, billionaires and the locals- wealthy enough to have the PR IRS develop tax loopholes for them)- but, it has not helped anyone else. In addition, PR has had inept politicians and bad administrators (From all political parties) who lack the proper intellectually skills to be successful and mostly promote corruptive nepotism. How else can anyone explain the ongoing poverty, poor public education, poorly run government agencies and bankrupt infrastructure monopolies. If you chart -since the 1940’s -the poverty rate, testing skills Results of children in the public PR School system, infrastructure reliability against the federal and local funds received – what do you find? – very little improvement. Who is responsible for such repetitively failures? Where has the money gone ?
    The argument against PR colonialism is straight forward in its simplicity. The Status Quo – “best of both worlds” argument has failed.
    What perhaps needs to be stressed as PR goes through another plebiscite is that the only way forward for PR is:
    1- An independent country without American Citizenship or federal oversight and likely little to no accountability from its leaders. (The promotion of an American citizenship within a free association is an irresponsible hoax. )
    2- A true permanent affiliation through statehood.

    Lastly, The USA was founded on a philosophy of anti colonialism. Our most sacred documents are the Declaration of Independence and Our Constitution. Our Republic is not flawless, but it is still here – undeterred . With every crises, we emerge strongly than ever and we legislate – amending mistakes and inequalities within the importance and significance of each historical moment. Our Constitution requires the constant attention of all Citizens expressing ourselves though our respectful and responsible activism and our votes.
    Once the 2020 PR Plebiscite is completed, it is the responsibility of congress to act upon it’s results. Each member of the USA congress must decide (individually and collectively) if their ultimate legacy towards the USA citizens of PR will be one based on political and financial avarice, or, a legacy based on Moral Gravitas – supporting permanent equality / PR Statehood – honoring the Constitution.

    • Agreed. The worst thing Truman did before leaving office was to give the intellectually incompentant & corrupt leaders of PR self rule. PR has not become a state in 122 years & never will. Congress has to vote for PR to attain stathood & no Republican will vote to make PR the 51st state. PR will remain a territory of the USA for the next 122 years.

    • You have hit the nail on the head. 2 senators, full congressional delegation. Full representation. It’s about time.

  2. We the people in Puerto Rico simply need to live with self respect and dignity. The unequal rights of the people in the island is not acceptable. We need representation in Congress and be able to vote for the presidency. We need to lobby key states for support. Puerto ricans in the mainland need to write to their representatives and demand their support. We need as John Lewis would say. “Good trouble “. Without it nothing will happen

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