Will Congress Respect the New Plebiscite?

Puerto Rico has voted for statehood again in a referendum that confirms the 2012 vote for statehood.

Opponents of statehood, realizing that they could not win in a clear contest, encouraged their supporters to  boycott the plebiscite, and the boycott doubtless had effects on voter turnout. Just over 22% of registered voters participated in the referendum, and about 31% of “Effective Active Voters.”

Opposition parties would like to claim that everyone who chose not to vote in the plebiscite was actually voting for their agenda. That’s not how voting works, though. We cannot tell whether an individual who chose not to vote on June 11 did so because she supported independence, because she likes living in a territory, or because she got busy and didn’t get to her polling place on time.

It doesn’t matter. As Governor Rosselló pointed out, it is the will of the people who vote that matters in a democracy.

The governor shared some comparison data on statehood votes in other territories and U.S. national elections:

  • In U.S. elections, 30% to 55% of eligible voters typically turn out to elect legislators.
  • Wisconsin’s statehood plebiscite had a 17% turnout.
  • Arizona had 7% turnout for their statehood referendum.
  • Hawaii had a 35% turnout.
  • Alaska had a 21%turnout.

In short, it is the people who vote who make the decision. Supporters of independence and of the current territorial status didn’t turn out to vote for those options; we don’t know how many there are, but we know that less than 2% of the votes cast went for each of those choices.

Now we must make sure that Congress takes action. Reach out to your representatives and make sure that they take responsibility.

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