Americas News

Puerto Ricans vote to endorse statehood but low turnout threatens election message

Puerto Rico held a plebiscite vote on Sunday, June 11, to allow voters to send a message to Washington regarding the island's political status with United States.

Puerto Rico held a plebiscite vote on Sunday, June 11, to allow voters to send a message to Washington regarding the island’s political status with United States.

According to the Puerto Rico State Commission on Elections, 97% of Puerto Ricans voted in favor of becoming a U.S. state in an election that many voters sat out in protest.

However, changing the island from a territory to a state would still require action from Congress, which is unlikely to happen.

Voter turnout

Voter turnout was historically low at 23%.

Puerto Rico’s two main opposition parties called for a boycott of the plebiscite, which may be partially responsible for the low voter turnout.

The Popular Democratic Party, which supports the current status quo, and the Puerto Rican Independence Party, which supports independence or free association, claim the plebiscite is a waste of time.

The pro-independence leadership was also unhappy that the current status quo was added to the ballot at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice. The DOJ made the request to have all available options on the ballot to citizens to “accurately reflect the current popular will of the people.”

Responses to the results

Governor Ricardo Roselló, part of the pro-statehood movement, praised the results. “From today going forward, the federal government will no longer be able to ignore the voice of the majority of the American citizens in Puerto Rico,” he said.

However, former governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá had less positive things to say about the results. “A 97 percent win is the kind of result you get in a one-party regime. Washington will laugh in their faces,” he stated in an interview.

PDP president Hector Ferrer pointed out in a press conference that at least “8 out of 10 valid voters chose to boycott the process.”

The governor’s promise

Roselló had campaigned on the promise of promoting and achieving statehood for Puerto Rico during his 2016 election.

A 2014 Congressional funding bill included $2.5 million to fund an “objective, nonpartisan” voter educational drive and a future status plebiscite for the island.

A certification of the event’s results will be issued by June 19, 2017.

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