The First Federal Plebiscite with Non-territorial Options | Puerto Rico 51st
Congress

The Puerto Rico Status Act, a compromise bill to resolve Puerto Rico’s political status, calls for a seventh plebiscite to take place in November 2023. This will be the first federal plebiscite, the first referendum sponsored by the federal government, with only non-territorial choices on the ballot.

The current territorial status will not be on the ballot. Nor will “commonwealth” be an option. Statehood will be offered to Puerto Rico, and independence will also be on the ballot, in two forms. Voters will be able to choose independence with a Compact of Free Association as well as independence without a COFA.

The three options in the draft bill are

  • Statehood
  • Independence
  • Free Association

If the bill passes in Congress as written, Puerto Rico will no longer be a territory of the United States by 2024.

Definitions

The discussion draft bill will be open for public input online and at meetings in Puerto Rico. There will also be mark up in the Natural Resources committee as well as discussions in he House and Senate. The definitions of the status options may change before the bill is passed.

These are the definitions as they are given in the discussion draft bill.

Independence:
“Puerto Rico is a sovereign nation that has full authority and responsibility over its territory and population under a constitution of its own adoption which shall be the supreme law of the nation.”

The U.S. Constitution will no longer apply in Puerto Rico if independence is chosen.

Sovereign Free Association:

“Puerto Rico is a sovereign nation that has full authority and responsibility over its territory and population under a constitution of its own adoption which shall be the supreme law of the nation.” This is the same as the definition of Independence. It is also specified that the U.S. Constitution will not apply.

“Puerto Rico enters into Articles of Free Association with the United States, with such devolution and reservation of governmental functions and other bilateral arrangements as  may be agreed to by both Parties under the Articles, which shall be terminable at will be either the United States or Puerto Rico at any time.”

Statehood:

“The State of Puerto Rico is admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the other States in all respects whatever and is a part of the permanent union of the United States of America, subject to the United States Constitution, with powers not prohibited by the Constitution to the States and reserved to the State of Puerto Rico or to its residents.”

The vote

As it is currently written, the discussion draft bill specifies that the winning option must have a majority of votes. That is, it must have over 50% of the votes cast.

If the votes are split and no option gains a majority, there will be a runoff vote between the two options with the largest numbers of votes.

If for example, statehood receive 48% of the vote and free association receives 36% of the vote, there will be a runoff between the two possibilities. Whichever of the options receives the majority of votes at that point will be implemented.

Changes

There will probably be changes in the bill before it comes to a vote, and we will make sure to keep you up to date on these changes. Please let your representatives in Congress know that you want them to support The Puerto Rico Status Act!

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