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THE HARTFORD COURANT
'None of the Above' Wins
December 15, 1998
©Copyright 1998 The Hartford Courant
It isn't often that "none of the above" gets the
most votes in a referendum. A majority of Puerto Ricans voted
for that option Sunday in what can be described as a stunning
setback for statehood supporters.
Advocates of making the Caribbean island the 51st state control
both houses of the legislature and the governorship. The wording
of the ballot proposition they crafted was, to put it kindly,
confusing. Voters were asked to choose one of five alternatives:
statehood, commonwealth status, independence, an ambiguous hybrid
of commonwealth and independence called "a free associated
state" and an even vaguer "none of the above."
The plebiscite drafters' goal was to divide and conquer, but
their strategy backfired.
The opposition coalesced around "none of the above,"
which won 50.2 percent of the vote.
The results did not send Congress a clear message as to what
final status Puerto Ricans prefer. The vote underscores the need
for a clear and binding referendum sanctioned by Congress detailing
the outcomes to be obtained with each option.
Congress came close to resolving the issue last spring when
the House passed a bill that would have set the terms for a plebiscite
. But the bill died in the Senate.
Gov. Pedro J. Rossello's claim that the results Sunday represent
a victory for
statehood is disingenuous. Yes, 46.5 percent of the voters supported
statehood, but a majority did not.
The present commonwealth association with the United States
was never intended to be a permanent form of government. On the
mainland, the Democratic and Republican party platforms have pledged,
since 1950, to resolve the final status of Puerto Rico based on
what residents of the island choose.
The present commonwealth system, which grants residents no
voice in presidential and congressional elections, needs fine
tuning, many commonwealth advocates acknowledge. But as a result
of Sunday's vote, Puerto Ricans are back to square one.
Nothing was really decided as to the future status of the island.
When a new Congress convenes next year, it should resubmit
the legislation approved by the House in the spring. Puerto Ricans
deserve a better process to determine their fate than what they
were faced with on Sunday.