The odds that Puerto Rico will vote for statehood and what happens if they do

by Mar 2, 2017Status0 comments

On June 11, 2017, Puerto Ricans will once again vote on statehood. The ballot measure is technically called the Plebiscite for the Immediate Decolonization of Puerto Rico. There are two potential outcomes of this initial vote. Puerto Rico may vote to become either a state or to become independent, be it through a free association or total independence. If they vote to become a state, then they will formally request the admission of Puerto Rico as a state of the United States of America. The final decision on the matter of statehood is up to Congress, but the vote is to determine whether or not they will request statehood. If they vote to become either a free association or become independent, things could get interesting.

Should they vote for the latter of the two options, they will have to vote again on October 8, 2017 on whether they would prefer total independence or to join a free association with the US. If they voted to for total independence, it would request that the US government start the process of Puerto Rico becoming an independent nation.

What is Puerto Rico’s current status?

Puerto Rico is currently considered a US unincorporated territory  Puerto Ricans are US citizens but they cannot elect federal representatives with voting privileges or the President. The islands currently receive only minimal federal funds and is twice as poor as the poorest state, Mississippi. The poverty rate is currently at 45% with the unemployment rate at 14%. Puerto Ricans are eligible for the draft, while they don’t have a voice in Congress, who declares war. If Puerto Rico were to be granted statehood, it could greatly help their economy.

What are the odds that Puerto Rico will vote for statehood?

Some people fear that Puerto Rico’s current debt crisis will affect their chances of becoming a state. Puerto Rico is currently more than $72 billion in debt. The last time that Puerto Rico voted on the subject of statehood, which happened December 2012, the voter turnout was 80% with 61% of voters voting for statehood. In 2014, the resolutions were introduced in Congress and were voted upon in both the House and the Senate, but both resolutions died in each committee. It will be interesting to see how Puerto Rico votes on June 11. Keep in mind that regardless of how Puerto Rico votes, their future is inevitably in the hands of Congress.

How would this affect the United States as a whole?

If Puerto Ricans voted for statehood, and it was granted, the cost per year for just 10 federal programs is estimated to be at $4.5-7.7 billion. If you were to calculate all of the federal programs, the cost would be much higher. You might wonder if the federal income tax from the Puerto Ricans would be able to cover the cost. This does not consider the possibility of added revenue from increased economic development. The last two states to join the union experienced economic booms after statehood, and some expect the same to happen in Puerto Rico.

There is currently some speculation, mainly due to opponents of statehood, as to whether or not the Caribbean territory would be able to afford statehood because it would rank as the poorest state in the nation and have the lowest percentage of its population in the workforce.

There would also have to be some adjustments made to the House of Representatives. They would either have to increase the number of seats in the House or reapportion them. Congress would also have to consider whether or not English should become Puerto Rico’s official language as both Spanish and English are currently their official languages.

Puerto Ricans have a fairly large decision to make in the coming months. This will affect more than appears at face value.