Resident Commissioner: “The time for Puerto Rico’s equality has come”
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R) of Puerto Rico, called the results of the status vote a clear mandate, after 97% of the voters chose statehood to initiate the process to decolonize Puerto Rico.
“Today is a historic day for Puerto Rico. There is nothing more deeply ingrained into the fabric of our Nation than respect for the clear intent of the electorate, as determined by ballots in a free and fair election. Today’s vote was a manifestation of that clear intent. The ballot included all possible options for Puerto Rico’s political future; it conformed to what the U.S. Department of Justice, under a Federal law, said that the options should be. Everyone had the opportunity to vote. Half a million of those who came out on Sunday voted for equality as Americans”, Resident Commissioner said the day of the vote.
González-Colón added: “Elections are determined by those who vote, not those who don’t. It is clear that the majority of Puerto Ricans want statehood. That is why leaders of certain factions urged people not to vote, as they knew that the current territorial status and nationhood were going to lose badly.
“During the past week, many of my colleagues in Congress, from both national parties, have said that they would respect and support the will of the American citizens living in the territory, as expressed in the plebiscite. I hope that they will help me convey to the rest of the Members of Congress the expressed will of the voters, that statehood is the only real alternative to territory status for Puerto Rico, and that territory status has limited, and harmed the Island’s economy. It has forced so many Puerto Ricans to move to a State in order to enjoy the greater opportunity and better life available in a State, and that is why there are now far more Puerto Ricans living in the mainland than in the territory”, she stated.
“I will not only lean on my colleagues and the leadership to hear the voices of these Americans, but more importantly, to respect the intent of the will of the voters. The time for Puerto Rico’s equality has come”, González-Colón said.
Regarding voter turnout, the Congresswoman pointed out to comparisons between this status vote and other important votes in Puerto Rico and U.S. history.
“Democracy belongs to those who vote. In every vote, the election is called for who received the greater number of votes, regardless of turnout,” González- Colón pointed out.
As part of her speech, the Resident Commissioner provided the following facts:
- In the November 2016 general election there were 1,589,991 total voters; in today’s vote more than 500,000 voted for Statehood that is almost a 33% of those who voted in November 2016.
- In the last popular referendum process outside a general election, which was the legislative reform and bail referendum of August 2012, there was a 35% turnout. Today there was a similar participation for Statehood.
- In United States presidential and congressional elections, from 30% to 55% of eligible voters participate, numbers comparable to Sunday’s vote.
- In the ratification of Wisconsin’s admission as a state in 1848, 23,183 voters participated out of population of more than 130,000, meaning 17%.
- In 1911 Arizona did the same with 15,489 voters of 217,000 population, or 7%; far less than in Puerto Rico today.
- In 1940, Hawaii requested to initiate a process to be admitted as a State with 35% voter participation.
- In 1946, Alaska began its admission process with the vote of 16,375 voters out of a population of 75,000, or 21% of the total. In today’s plebiscite vote this number was far exceeded.
- In 1952, the current Puerto Rico Constitution was ratified with a 58% participation of eligible voters, and the votes in favor were just 42% of eligible voters.
- To amend the Constitution and establish voting at age 18 in 1970, 362,676 or 35% of eligible voters participated.
These are likely to be used heavily in the coming weeks and months for lobbying Congress.