Short answer: yes. You can download a PDF of the Certified Official Results of the 2012 Plebiscite, which clearly shows that Puerto Rico voted for statehood. The government of Puerto Rico certified the results, the White House announced that it was a clear vote, and that’s that.
The 2017 plebiscite also had a clear winner: statehood, with 97% of the vote. Download the PDF file of the official results.
You can also see the official results of the 2020 plebiscite. A clear majority voted for statehood.
In other words, Puerto Rico’s voters have chosen statehood three times — in each of the plebiscites conducted during this century.
So why is Puerto Rico still a territory?
Now we need the long answer.
There were two questions on the 2012 ballot.
The first question asked, “Do you agree that Puerto Rico should continue to have its present form of territorial status?” That is, do you want to continue to be a territory?
Here is what the voters said:
- Yes: 46%
- No: 54%
Like so many recent votes in the United States, slightly more than half of the people wanted one thing and slightly less than half wanted the other, but it is certainly clear that a majority of the voters did not want to continue to be a territory.
The second question in 2012
As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico does not have the same rights and powers as a State, and the people of Puerto Rico, though citizens of the U.S., do not have the full rights of citizenship. The majority of the voters said this was not acceptable to them.
The answer to the first ballot question is clear, but it’s not enough. If Puerto Rico does not remain a territory, it can be either a state or an independent nation. So there had to be a second question.
The second question asked voters to make a further decision. “Irrespective of your answer to the first question, indicate which of the following non-territorial options you prefer. ” The non-territorial options were statehood, independence, and “sovereign free associated state,” which would be a nation in a relationship with the United States which either nation could end at any time.
These three options are the only ones which are possible for Puerto Rico, under the Constistution of the United States. Voters overwhelmingly chose one of the options:
- Statehood: 61%
- Independence: 5%
- Sovereign Free Associated State: 33%
61% of the voters chose statehood. Only 5% chose independence and only 33% chose the option of being a separate country with some kind of association with the U.S. There is no question that statehood got the majority of votes.
The 2017 boycott
In 2017, a resounding 97% of the votes went for statehood. However, the opposing party had called for a boycott. Now, obviously nobody boycotts a vote they can win. But the opposition said that voter turnout was too low on the 2017 plebiscite.
Voter turnout is not an issue in elections in the United States. There is no minimum quorum required. The 2017 referendum had a clear winner.
2020’s clear majority
In 2020, there was no boycott. There was no possible confusion about the meaning of the vote. Voters could choose “Yes” for statehood or “No” for anything else they might want.
53% of the votes were for statehood. Once again, for the third time, Puerto Rico’svoters chose statehood.
So why is there any question about whether Puerto Rico wants statehood?
The anti-statehood party of Puerto Rico wanted another option on all those ballots, which is sometimes called “Enhanced Commonwealth” or “Developed Commonwealth.” This option would give Puerto Rico many of the rights of a state, including U.S. military protection, entitlements to financial support, and U.S. citizenship for people born in Puerto Rico, but U.S. Federal laws would not all apply in Puerto Rico.
The U.S. government has said many, many times that this is not a possibility. It is not possible under the U.S. Constitution and the U.S.will not agree to it. Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the U.S. Department of Justice have all said that this option is “not viable” and urged Puerto Rico to stop trying to attain it.
The enhanced commonwealth idea was therefore not on the ballots.
Supporters of this idea believe that since voters did not have this option as one of their choices, the vote was incomplete or manipulated to favor statehood.
If this idea had been on the ballot and had won, as it has in some cases in the past, the U.S. government would have refused it, as they have in the past. Recently, some people in Puerto Rico have proposed that Puerto Rico should return to being a Spanish colony. That idea was also not on the ballot. There is no reason to put impossible things on the ballot.
It is clear that the people of Puerto Rico want statehood. Congress could have admitted Puerto Rico after any of these plebiscites. Instead, Congress has sidestepped their responsibility.
It is easier to use uncertainty as an excuse for inaction than to make the decision and take action.
As a territory, Puerto Rico has very little say in decisions made by the federal government. If you live in a state, please let your legislators know that you want equality for Puerto Rico through statehood.