It may be a while before Puerto Ricans again vote on whether they
want their island home to become the 51st state. The U.S. House of
Representatives passed a measure earlier this year that would have
authorized a plebiscite. Leaders in the U.S. Senate, however, have
blocked the measure.
The issue came down to raw numbers. There's a question on whether
Puerto Ricans would vote predominantly Democrat or Republican. With
two Senate and six House seats at stake, Puerto Rican statehood could
shift the balance of power in Congress.
There's a very real question on where Puerto Ricans would come
down in the political scheme of things. One school of thought
figures they would vote predominantly Democratic. The average income
in Puerto Rico is only about half that in the United States, so
Democratic-style federal social programs might prove popular.
Local politics, however, argues otherwise. About 70 percent of
Puerto Rico's lawmakers are Republican, and there is strong support
on the island for GOP ideas like school prayer and school vouchers.
The last time Puerto Ricans voted on the status of their island
was in 1993. Then, 48 percent wanted to maintain the current
commonwealth status while 46 percent wanted to become a state.
Only 4 percent of the voters wanted independence.
Under both the House and Senate measures, if a majority of Puerto
Rican voters endorsed statehood, Congress would have had 10 years to
decide whether to grant it.
It could be that Congress has things backwards. The worst thing
it could do is give the go-ahead for a plebiscite, and then vote not
to accept Puerto Rico as a state if Puerto Ricans decide that is what
Such action would be a monumental insult to Puerto Ricans, many of
whom have fought in the nation's wars.
Puerto Rico has been a part of the United States for a century.
Puerto Ricans are loyal citizens, and they deserve a vote on
If the majority votes "yes," Puerto Rico deserves quick admission
to the Union.