November 3, 2020, will see the 6th plebiscite on Puerto Rico’s status. The federal government has said that Puerto Rico should have a status vote “not less than once every ten years” until Puerto Rico has a permanent political status. The 2020 Puerto Rico plebiscite ballot offers one question with two answers: “Should Puerto Rico be admitted immediately in the Union as a State?”: yes or no.
A yes vote should lead to the admission of Puerto Rico as a state. Statehood is a permanent status. Once Puerto Rico becomes a state, it will continue to be a state.
But a no vote will not resolve the question. Voters who choose “no” may be voting to continue in the current territorial relationship, choosing independence, or hoping for “enhanced commonwealth.” Being a territory is not a permanent status. A territory can always become a state, as 32 territories already have done, or an independent nation, like the Philippines.
The instructions on the sample ballot, in English and in Spanish, explain that the voter must make a clear mark in the white rectangle shown by that voter’s preferred option.
On the left, with an oval, is “No.” Voting no says that the voter does not want Puerto Rico to become a state.
On the right, with a triangle, is “Yes.” Voting yes says that the voter wants statehood.
If the majority of voters once again choose statehood, it will not be possible for Congress to continue to suggest that it isn’t possible to tell what Puerto Rico wants.
With previous ballots, anti-statehood factions have managed to discredit the votes based on irregular voter behavior. The new ballot works to avoid this by including these very clear instructions for voters:
The voter can only choose and mark one (1) alternative of those printed on this ballot. You must write a valid mark inside the white rectangle that corresponds to the geometric figure of the alternative of your choice. The ballot with not clear intention of the vote in any of the alternatives printed on the ballot with more than one (1) alternative marked, not voted on, blank, or with any other symbol or writing outside one of the white rectangles, will not be counted in the official results certified by the State Election Commission, according to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico.
We hope that this vote will clarify the wishes of the territory’s voters, and that Congress will respond.