Conversations about Puerto Rico statehood often include talk about how the status votes so far have been non-binding. That is, Puerto Rico votes for statehood, but then Congress still gets to choose whether or not to act on those votes. We need a binding referendum, people say.

However, it’s in the nature of referenda that they are not binding.

HR 1522 addresses this issue

Hawaii submitted 18 admissions bills to Congress over a period of 61 years.

Utah submitted 8 bills over 48 years.

It looks like Puerto Rico will be the winner of “Longest Territorial Status,” but Hawaii could have stopped after the 4th bill… or the 14th. “Why should this one be different?” they might have asked. Maybe they did.

But they could also have asked, “Why shouldn’t this one be different?” None of the bills were different until the 18th bill, which was passed and signed into law.

HR 1522, the current Puerto Rico statehood admissions bill, does nto call for another referendum. It calls for Congress to offer statehood to Puerto Rico. The Island’s voters will then vote whether or not to accept that offer by ratifying Congress’s decision. That is different.

Previous territories

32 territories have already requested admission as states. Sometimes Congress voted “No” on their admission bills. Sometimes Congress ignored their admissions bills entirely. Sometimes Congress agreed, but the president failed to sign the bill.

Every single one of those territories is a state today.

Binding vote?

It is in the nature of a plebiscite not to be binding. The word “plebiscite” comes from “decision of the people” in Latin. It is a way for the government to check the opinion of the people. It is not a way to make a direct change to Puerto Rico’s political status. The Constitution doesn’t say that territories can become states if they vote to do so. It says that Congress can admit a territory as a state.

This is why it’s so important to educate and inspire the members of Congress. Make sure your congressperson is on the right side of history. Reach out to your representatives. Ask them to support HR 1522.



One response

  1. Yes Puerto Rico should be converted from territory of the USA to another State of the union (#51), they have voted in two occasions for statehood by the residents of the Islands. It will help if the Government of Puerto Rico put more emphasis on the priority of paying our debt to the federal government created by previous administrations miss use of funds. We can not wait to become another State and obtain all the benefits that other citizens of our USA to terminate the abuse and prejudice that many of the Island residents (all US citizens) received daily, not only in comercial transactions, but daily activities to include recreations attendance to federal parks and others. We have supported the US Armed Forces in all the branches and wars where the US was involved and had many of our friends and family paid with their lives or permanently injured in the fight for freedom. We want Statehood now.

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