Ricardo Rosselló, Elizabeth Torres Rodríguez, Roberto Lefranc Fortuño, and Maria Meléndez Altieri have been elected as House representatives for Puerto Rico. Melinda Romero Donnelly and Zoraida Buxó Santiago have been chosen as Senate representatives. They have been described as “lobbyists,” but are also seen as a shadow delegation, taking the place of the senators and members of the House Puerto Rico will have as a state.
In 2018, following the 2017 referendum, a shadow delegation was appointed by the governor and sent to Washington. This delegation included half Republicans and half Democrats, plus one Independent. Composed of leaders fromPuerto Rico, it was designed to reassure those who worried that Puerto Rico would be a blue state.
The delegation was part of an effort to use the Tennessee Plan to push Congress to respect the votes for statehood in 2012 and 2017, and to achieve statehood.
Tennessee was eager to become a state in 1796, so they elected senators and Congressional representatives and sent them to Washington to demand seats in Congress. Congress refused. However, Tennessee’s eagerness sped up the process and they were admitted just months later.
Since then, several more states have used the Tennessee Plan to speed up their admission — most recently, Alaska.
Puerto Rico’s 2018 delegation did not achieve statehood for Puerto Rico, but the new delegation is hoping to succeed.
The 2021 delegation was elected, not appointed. Turnout in their election was very small — fewer than 5% of the voters — but there is no minimum turnout requirement for elections in the United States, and many elected officials have been put into office by fewer than 10% of the registered voters.The turnout does not affect the election.
Congress insisted that Tennessee hold new elections after becoming a state, simply because a territory cannot elect representatives to Congress; only a state can do that. This is why Puerto Rico, a territory, has no senators or regular Members of Congress.
Puerto Rico’s shadow delegation may not become the delegation for the state of Puerto Rico, but they currently have a brief to support the cause of statehood and persuade Congress to respect the 2020 vote.
“I will work together with my fellow delegates, each of whom brings a unique perspective and a set of experiences that I believe will make us a highly effective team for the people of Puerto Rico. I hope, together with them, to develop and implement a cohesive and comprehensive agenda with the commitment and objective of achieving statehood for Puerto Rico,” Rosello was quoted as saying by the Weekly Journal.