(TheBlaze/AP) — A majority of Puerto Ricans voted to change their ties with the United States and become the 51st U.S. state yesterday in a non-binding referendum that would require final approval from Congress.
The two-part referendum asked whether the island wanted to change its 114-year relationship with the United States and nearly 54 percent sought to change it, while 46 percent favored the status quo with ninety-six percent of precincts reporting.
The second question asked voters to choose from three options, with statehood by far the favorite, garnering 61 percent. Sovereign free association, which would have allowed for more autonomy, received 33 percent, while independence got 5 percent.
President Barack Obama earlier expressed clear support for the referendum and pledged to respect the will of the Puerto Rican people in the event of a clear majority.
It is unclear whether U.S. Congress will debate the referendum results, or if Obama will consider the results to be a clear enough majority, the Associated Press writes.
“I am firmly committed to the principle that the question of political status is a matter of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico,” Obama wrote in March 2011 for a White House task force report on U.S.-Puerto Rico relations. He added that boosts in investment in things like education, bridges, broadband access, clean energy, and healthcare in the United States would also occur in its territory.
“We’re giving Puerto Ricans the tools they need to build their own economic future, and this is how it should be,” Obama said.
Bloomberg News significantly adds that the task force recommended that the president, Congress and the governor of Puerto Rico decide the issue ‘by the end of 2012 or soon thereafter.’”
Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, who has championed statehood, did not return calls for comment. He received 48 percent while his opponent, Rafael Cox Alomar, received 47 percent with 96 percent of precincts reporting.
The island is currently a U.S. territory whose inhabitants are U.S. citizens but are prohibited from voting in presidential elections. In the past, they have consistently voted against statehood because at the current time, aside from voting in U.S. elections, they have many of the privileges of citizenship but few of the burdens.
The island’s future political status, however, also depends on who governs the island.
According to partial election results, pro-statehood Gov. Luis Fortuno was ousted by a razor thin margin by an opponent who supports the island’s current political status.
However, the fact that the majority of Puerto Ricans voted for statehood could well be considered more significant than the governor’s opinions.
Puerto Rican Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock went so far as to cite America’s founding documents in the matter, noting that government derives its power from consent of the governed. By his logic, it seems, maintaining the status quo after the majority vote would be unconstitutional.
“The people are withdrawing their consent to be governed the way they are governed,” he said according to CNN. “Congress will have to address this and will have to pay attention.”