Puerto Ricans will head to the polls today to vote on a referendum on statehood.
The sixth referendum on Puerto Rico’s status as a US territory and the latest since 2017, this year’s ballot question will seek a vote affirming or rejecting statehood. Although the power to admit new US states rests with Congress, the referendum is the latest attempt to gauge Puerto Rican public sentiment toward Washington.
The vote today pits the New Progressive Party (PNP)—which proposed the referendum and supports statehood—against the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), which favours the current commonwealth status. The ballot asks voters to choose between Puerto Rican statehood or “free association or independence”. The latter choice suggests two potential outcomes. “Free association” would require appointing a seven-member commission to negotiate a new settlement with Washington, while independence would mean the end of access to US citizenship, government programs and passport-free travel. As a result, those supporting commonwealth status lack a decisive voting option.
Expect Puerto Rican voters to choose statehood again. However, the electoral turnout is expected to be extremely low—the 2017 referendum saw a 23% voter turnout. Thus, the issue may remain at an stalemate.