Puerto Rico to Vote on Statehood

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By Kody Fairfield

On Sunday, Puerto Ricans will head to the polls to decide whether or not the US territory should back and effort to become the 51st state within the United States of America.

The vote, though non-binding, will present the nation of 3.4 million with three options, reports the Wall Street Journal (WSJ):

  1. Statehood
  2. Independence
  3. Continuation as a territory

Governor of Puerto Rico and member of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, Ricardo Rosselló, has made the idea of becoming the 51st state the mantle to his administration, reported WSJ.

“The people of Puerto Rico cherish our relationship with the United States,” said Jenniffer González, a pro-statehood party member and Puerto Rico’s non-voting representation in the US Congress. “We hope to strengthen that relationship” by becoming the 51st state.

Other proponents argue that the territory is essentially a colony, and that full statehood could help the island get a handle on its decade long recession and a $73 billion mountain of debt, according to WSJ.

The idea of statehood is opposed by the island’s Popular Democratic Party, in favor of its current territory status with increased autonomy. The Popular Democratic Party has urged Puerto Ricans to boycott the vote the referendum rigged in support of statehood, in part because the governing party had initially sought to exclude the territorial option from the ballot. The smaller Puerto Rican Independence Party has also called for a boycott, explained WSJ.

If the island were to gain access to statehood, it looks as though it would be a bolster for Democrats, as the island’s history shows that it typically votes to the left. Regardless of this however, both major US political parties and President Donald Trump have have said they favor Puerto Rico deciding its own fate.

If Puerto Rico was to officially ask for statehood, the US Congress would need to authorize the admission of a new state. Something that Charles Venator-Santiago, a political-science professor at the University of Connecticut, says is “dead on arrival,” because of the Republican control, explained WSJ.

The vote Sunday will be the fifth plebiscite since 1967 regarding the status of the US territory. Under current US law, Puerto Ricans are born U.S. citizens, but those living on the island cannot vote for president and have only one representative in Congress, a resident commissioner who also cannot vote, per WSJ.

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