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United States Elections

Puerto Rico Votes for Statehood In 2017 Referendum

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2017 Puerto Rico Referendum Statehood

The Puerto Rico electorate chose statehood for the island in its Sunday referendum.

Despite a massive vote in favor of Puerto Rican admission to the American union, low turnout will hamper the legitimacy of the results.

2017 Puerto Rico Statehood Referendum Results

With almost all precincts on the island reporting, statehood received 97.18 percent of the vote. Of the five status referendums in Puerto Rican history, this is by far the largest vote in its favor.

The options against Puerto Rico joining the union, independence/free association and current territorial status, almost evenly split the remaining few percent.

Referendum Turnout And Boycotts

Turnout for the referendum was quite low. While early on it appeared on about a 40 percent pace, the numbers settled in the mid-20s. On almost full numbers, just over 500,000 Puerto Rican voters turned out. This is about 23 percent of the electorate.

The main opposition Partido Popular Democrático (Popular Democratic Party) and Puerto Rico’s independence party, the Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño, boycotted the poll. Organizing a plebiscite takes time and money, and some would say the island didn’t have the latter to spare. Others criticized the government party, Partido Nuevo Progresista, for forcing a referendum while the island was under the pressure of a fiscal crisis.

Next Steps For Puerto Rico

The legitimacy of the results will be challenged. Nevertheless, Governor Ricky Rosselló of the pro-statehood PNP will now make his case to Washington that the island should become the 51st American state. However, with a sub-25 percent turnout, Congress is unlikely to act.

Five years ago, Puerto Rico held a referendum on its status, with a much higher turnout, that also saw a pro-statehood vote. Many ballots were invalidated in 2012 due to a boycott of its second-part question on how the island’s status should change. Then, there was too much ambiguity and disagreement over what the result meant. Washington took no action, and it is doubtful today’s vote will have a different outcome.

To see more on elections in the United States, with or without Puerto Rican statehood, we have a page for that.

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