Puerto Ricans requested statehood on November 3, 2020, with 52.3% of voters asking to vary the island’s standing from unincorporated territory to U.S. state.
That is the sixth time statehood has been on the poll since Puerto Rico ratified its Structure in 1952. Voters rejected the standing change in 1967, 1993 and 1998. The 2012 election outcomes have been unclear as a result of some voters didn’t reply each elements of a two-part statehood query. In 2017 statehood gained decisively, albeit with very low turnout of round 23%.
Puerto Rico didn’t change into the 51st state then, and it’s unlikely to attain statehood any time quickly. Solely Congress can add new states to the Union, through an Admission Act or Home Decision that requires approval by a easy majority within the Home and Senate.
The US wrested Puerto Rico from Spain within the 1898 Spanish-American Struggle, together with Cuba, the Philippines and the Mariana Islands. Shortly after, a collection of Supreme Court docket rulings known as the “Insular Instances” – made by the identical courtroom that discovered racial segregation constitutional in Plessy v. Ferguson – deemed most of America’s new territories to be inhabited by “alien races,” ungovernable by “Anglo-Saxon rules.”
These circumstances labeled America’s island territories as integrated or unincorporated, every with a special set of rights. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory. It’s just like U.S. states in some ways however its taxpaying residents lack voting illustration in Congress, can’t vote for president and don’t take pleasure in all the identical constitutional rights as different People.
With no vote in Congress, Puerto Rico’s wants will not be properly represented in Washington. Puerto Rico’s authorized standing all however defines politics on the island. Slightly than providing clear left- or right-wing insurance policies, Puerto Rico’s two major political events are historically outlined by their stance on statehood. The Well-liked Democratic Social gathering typically favors protecting Puerto Rico a territory; the New Progressive Social gathering is pro-statehood. Each have Democratic- and Republican-aligned members.
The New Progressive Social gathering’s grip on the statehood trigger loosened in 2020. Some 215,000 Puerto Ricans who voted for statehood voted in opposition to its pro-statehood gubernatorial candidate, Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, who gained his race very narrowly. The New Progressive Social gathering’s candidate for resident commissioner – Puerto Rico’s nonvoting delegate to the U.S. Home of Representatives – acquired 132,000 fewer votes than statehood did.
Statehood in 2020
All these cut up tickets replicate a broader political upheaval happening in Puerto Rico after a rocky half-decade. Since 2015, Puerto Rico has defaulted on elements of its debt, undergone a fiscal disaster, been ravaged by Hurricane Maria and survived a uncommon collection of “cluster earthquakes.” Financial restoration has been weak and catastrophe restoration since Maria was botched by native corruption and federal indolence.
Discontent with Puerto Rican management, aggravated by the fiscal austerity imposed by a Washington-controlled federal board, culminated final yr in large protests. Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares stepped down in August 2019.
After Rosselló’s resignation, his New Progressive Social gathering had a really public combat concerning the succession course of. A chaotic main pitted its Republican- and Democrat-aligned factions in opposition to one another. All of the drama and corruption appears to have left many statehood supporters in Puerto Rico fed up with the New Progressive Social gathering, and politics on the whole.
By the 2020 election, new events with clearer ideological choices – just like the progressive, populist Citizen Victory Motion and the right-wing, religiously based mostly Dignity Venture – had cropped up. These upstart events – together with Puerto Rico’s longstanding third occasion, the independence-minded, social-democratic Independence Social gathering – pledged to make authorities work higher, and a few outsider candidates really gained.
Puerto Rico’s new events principally didn’t endorse a selected alternative on the 2020 statehood referendum, promising to respect regardless of the outcome was.
Some third-party candidates did float alternate options to Puerto Rico’s frequent, nonbinding referenda on statehood. The New York Democratic consultant Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has championed a proposal to create a “standing meeting,” a conference of delegates who would craft concrete proposals on statehood, independence and a looser “free affiliation” relationship with the U.S.
These proposals would then be negotiated with Congress and voted on by the Puerto Rican citizens. In 2020, nonetheless, statehood was the one choice on the poll, and Puerto Ricans voted “sure.”
All eyes on Georgia
Any hope of congressional followup on this referendum hinges virtually fully on Georgia’s Senate runoff on January 5, 2021. If the Democrats win each Georgia Senate seats to achieve a Senate majority, Senator Chuck Schumer has vowed to pursue Puerto Rican statehood. If the Republicans retain the bulk, nonetheless, Senate Chief Mitch McConnell and different Republican senators would virtually definitely block any effort to make Puerto Rico a state.
Puerto Rican voters on the mainland often vote Democratic, so most Republicans understand statehood as a political menace, though Pew Analysis finds Puerto Ricans on the island are a socially conservative crowd. Only some Republican officers, corresponding to Florida’s Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, say they’d assist Puerto Rican statehood. For now, all eyes are on Georgia.