“Congress must also act to empower more than 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico, who are disenfranchised not just in Congressional elections but in presidential elections too,” wrote Rep. Jamie Raskin in a statement. “The House has finally acted to give the people of Puerto Rico the right to a binding plebiscite on their future, and the equal empowerment of Puerto Rico too must quickly become a bicameral democracy agenda.”
Supporters of the mythical “commonwealth” status like to use the word “disenfranchise” to describe ballots that don’t include the commonwealth option. Under this definition, you could claim that every ballot disenfranchises people who want to vote for anything not on the ballot. People who want to be able to vote for a Communist People’s Republic of Puerto Rico would be disenfranchised. People who want to choose Ricky Martin as president would be disenfranchised. This use of the word has made it seem like a commonplace term in political discussions.
However, Raskin is using it as it should be used. People are disenfranchised when they do not have the ability to vote in their own country. Puerto Ricans cannot vote for senators or for their presidents. They can elect only one representative to the House.
Raskin also talks about a binding plebiscite. So far, all the votes on status taken in Puerto Rico have been non-binding. This is normal for plebiscites, which are intended just to give legislators an idea of the people’s views. Every status vote in every territory so far has been non-binding. The Puerto Rico Status Act is quite different. It offers Puerto Rico a choice and promises that Congress will carry through on that promise. This was one of the reasons that so many in Congress voted against it. They didn’t want that commitment.
Some members of Congress mentioned that this was not the way states were usually admitted. Raskin Spoke about the admission of earlier states, too.
“We haven’t admitted a new state to the Union in more than a half-century, but statehood admission has been another essential way to move disenfranchised populations into the circle of complete democratic membership and equality,” he said. “Nearly three-quarters of our 50 states today entered after the Union was formed and they almost always faced fierce controversy and opposition.”
“Almost” could have been left out of that sentence. Every territory had an anti-statehood faction. Every territory had members of Congress and of the public who fought against their statehood.
A more perfect union
“Democracy is not just a set of static practices and institutions,” Raskin continued. “it is the never-ending journey to link the people with the power in a ‘more perfect Union.’”
Click the statement below to tweet your thanks to Raskin for his support of statehood for Puerto Rico.Thank you, @RepRaskin , for your support of Puerto Rico! Click To Tweet
If Rep. Raskin is not your representative, reach out to your congressperson and ask for their support.