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THE SAN JUAN STAR
White House: "None Of The Above" Win Not
A Clear Status Choice
Vote Said To Give Little Guidance On Ultimate Outcome
by Robert Friedman
February 21, 1999
©Copyright 1999 The San Juan Star
Washington -- The White House indicated Saturday that the "none
of the above" winning vote in the Dec. 13 island plebiscite
has little or no meaning for the ultimate outcome of Puerto Rico's
"'None of the above' is not an affirmative statement on
status that helps move the process forward," said Fred Du
Val, deputy assistant to the president. "It doesn't give
us guidance" for the island's status choice.
Du Val said that while the Puerto Rico run plebiscite was a
"valid" election, the none of the above choice was "not
a status option" and its majority vote left the island's
status wishes unclear.
The White House and Gov. Rossello were in sync Saturday on
the confusion wrought by the Dec. 13 plebiscite results.
Rossello threw the status ball into Washington's court, asserting
that it was now up to Congress and the president to find a way
to help Puerto Rico further decide its political future. Congress,
Rossello said, has the responsibility to "actively take part"
moving the process along.
The governor said he will present the plebiscite results Monday
to President Clinton. He will meet privately with the president
after he, and others governors attending the National Governors
Association meeting here, visit Clinton at the white House.
Rossello would not specify what, exactly, he would tell Clinton
regarding the result of the Dec. 13 vote. "You'll know after
I've told the president," he said.
The governor and Du Val spoke separately to reporters Saturday
at a Democratic Governors Association meeting.
Rossello acknowledged that "in retrospect" putting
the none of the above choice on the ballot "caused a lot
of confusion, because it was a vote against, but not in favor
Still, according to the governor, who will also present the
status vote results to Congress, the plebiscite did show that
"99 percent of Puerto Rico is in favor of a status change."
While none of the above drew a majority 50.3 percent of the
status vote, 46.5 percent vote for statehood, while less than
1 percent chose the current commonwealth option. But that was
because the Popular Democratic Party urged its followers to cast
ballots in the none of the above column.
The PPD strongly objected to the way commonwealth was defined
in the Young bill, which was used as a model for the island plebiscite
in December. The "populares" insisted the bill denigrated
the current US-Puerto Rico relationship by maintaining that commonwealth
changed nothing in the island's territorial standing, which gives
Congress full powers over Puerto Rico affairs.
Du Val acknowledged that the island status legislation introduced
last year by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska and approved by the House
before it died in the Senate, might need to be "updated"
before a new measure is introduced into Congress. The Young Bill
was a "good starting point," but the Clinton administration
was now "open" to changes in the legislation that could
result in a greater consensus, the presidential assistant said.
"We'll certainly entertain" the possibility of a
new legislation, said Du Val, who is also deputy director of the
White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
"What must be present is honest, realistic choices,"
he said, adding: "The administration is open to instructions
on how the bill should be updated."
Rossello, meanwhile, said that Congress must "step in
and recognize its responsibility" because "local politics
distorts the discussion and decision on status. We have to make
sure that Congress responds" with clear status choices for
island voters, the governor said.
The governor will participate in an NGA workshop today in the
role of fathers in curbing drug use in the family.