Puerto Ricans vote for statehood, elect pro-commonwealth governor

Zachary Snider Contributor
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A slim majority of Puerto Ricans voted Tuesday to change the territory’s relationship with the United States and become the 51st state in the nation, the Huffington Post reports.

In a non-binding referendum, nearly 54 percent of Puerto Ricans voted to change the relationship with the U.S. while 46 percent voted to maintain the status quo.

The two-part referendum asked citizens their preference between statehood, commonwealth and independence.

Statehood was by far the preferred relationship, receiving 61 percent of the vote. Commonwealth received a 33 percent share of the vote, while just 5 percent of voters favored independence.

In a June 2011 visit to the island, President Barack Obama promised to stand by Puerto Ricans in their decision about the territory’s future, provided there is a “clear decision” one way or the other.

It remains unclear whether Obama considers the decision to be clear, or whether the issue will pass on to Congress.

Congressional approval is a necessity for Puerto Rico’s statehood, according to Article IV of the Constitution. It is unclear at this point what congressional leaders think about the issue.

The White House, Senate and House of Representatives have yet to give an official comment on the matter.

Puerto Rico’s population was 3,706,690 in 2011. As of early Wednesday, the total number of voters was 1,709,123, just over 46 percent of the populous, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

The future of the island’s political status is largely dependent on who governs the island.

Puerto Rican Gov. Luis Fortuno lost his bid for reelection by less than one percent.

Fortuno, a member of the pro-statehood New Progressive party, was unseated by Sen. Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the pro-commonwealth Popular Democratic Party.

“I can assure you we have rescued Puerto Rico,” Garcia told HuffPo in celebration of his victory. “This is a lesson to those who think that the well-being of Puerto Ricans should be subjected to ideologies.”