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.
So why is Puerto Rico still a territory?
Now we need the long answer.
There were two questions on the 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
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 a 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.
So why is there any question about whether Puerto Rico wants statehood?
The former government of Puerto Rico wanted another option, 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 ballot.
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.
In 2017, there was another referendum on statehood. Once again the voters of Puerto Rico voted for statehood. In fact, 97% of the votes cast were for statehood. One more vote will be held this November.
Will Congress take action this time?