Although citizens of Puerto Rico could not vote in Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election, many did turn out to vote for an important referendum that posed the question regarding the current status quo of the U.S. Commonwealth. Puerto Ricans were asked to vote on two different issues. The first asked whether they wanted to remain under their current political status with the United States, to which a fifty-four percent majority answered no. The second question gave those Puerto Rican constituents that sought change three different options: U.S. statehood, independence, or sovereignty. A clear sixty-one percent majority of these voters wanted Puerto Rico to become a U.S. state. Earlier this year, President Obama stated that he would presumably support Puerto Rican statehood if we saw a clear majority in the referendum.
So, what happens now that we have heard the voices of the people in this Caribbean Island territory? According to a US News article by Jason Koebler, Puerto Rican statehood is unlikely to occur until at least the year 2015. This is not due to a difficulty in the process of adding a state to the country—in fact, U.S. Congress may admit a new state with a simple majority vote in both houses and the president’s signature, which Obama is willing to give in this case—but rather in the lack of current political support for the addition. With the existing Republican-ruled House, the situation becomes troublesome, precisely because a greater number of Puerto Rican citizens lean left, or land on some shade of the Democratic spectrum.
The implications of admitting Puerto Rico as a state to the U.S. go beyond a loss of symmetry in the stars of the American flag, as Richard Mora, a Sociology Professor at Occidental College, jokingly stated, According to the Natural Resources Committee, there are several other repercussions that go along with this process. First, there would have to be a reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives. This rearrangement would occur either by adding new representatives to the existing 435, or by decreasing the number of other state representatives to appoint six to the newly added island state. In addition, there would most likely be an increase in federal spending for state programs for education, healthcare, welfare, and other social services in Puerto Rico. Jerome Lefebre told The Huffington Post this increase in funding would benefit Puerto Ricans. Finally, there would also be several cultural implications, including addressing the issue of English as an official state language in a place where a great number of the population is Spanish-speaking.
Needless to say, Puerto Rico is ready to move towards U.S. statehood given the results of the November 6th referendum. What do you foresee for the future of the current U.S. Commonwealth, and how do you predict that will affect our nation’s economy and culture?