Puerto Rico status vote lobbying intensifies
Coming up in mid-June, Puerto Rican citizens will be asked to participate in the newest statehood/status referendum, with three options on the ballot: continue as a territory, become independent, or become a state. The final say in Puerto Rican status updates is with the US Congress, but many are hopeful that the US government and Congress-people will honor the wishes of the Puerto Rican people.
There are many firm supporters of each option, but one of the most notable is Governor Rosselló, who ran on the platform of statehood. His administration has begun to prepare for the upcoming vote with signs and stickers that proclaim statements such as, “Treasure your American citizenship. Guarantee it. Vote for statehood,” and “#StatehoodNow.” Supporters of statehood cite the recent economic difficulties as a clear reason to become more integrated in the United States; they believe that statehood would mean more investment and money from the US federal government, which could help them overcome their debt issues.
Some are encouraging residents of Puerto Rico to sign petitions in support of using the “Tennessee plan,” named after the way Tennessee became a state. By declaring themselves a state, and demanding quick passage of their statehood through Congress, the new state avoided the bureaucratic stalls and political difficulties that surround becoming a state.
Others supporting statehood are aiming to use grassroots action and mobilization to sway the US Congress. One specific inequality lobbied against is the discrepancy in treatment of veterans in Puerto Rico vs. in the states.
Alternately, those supporting independence have also invested in lobbying and persuasion efforts, aiming to convince the people of Puerto Rico that giving up their democratic powers to the US government would be a mistake, and that Puerto Rico should become it’s own country.
There is also a group in the middle, who have been encouraging citizens to leave their ballots blank and not vote at all, therefore, they believe, invalidating the ballot because a large percentage of the population will not have voted. Some have stated that they do not wish to vote for other reasons as well, such as because they see the referendum as a distraction, shifting the focus from the debt crisis and corruption, to statehood and independence.
The question of statehood has been a pivotal one for Puerto Rico, and it is possible that the question will soon have an answer. It is difficult to know, under this new, ever-shifting Trump Administration, how US Congress will react to whichever status wins, but it is possible that the United States could be one state larger in the not-so-distant future.