Posted on October 30, 2020

Sixth Time’s a Charm? Puerto Ricans Vote on Statehood Once Again

Jim Wyss and Michelle Kaske, Bloomberg, October 23, 2020

When Puerto Ricans go to the polls Nov. 3 to elect their governor they’ll also be asked, once again, if they want to be the 51st star on the American flag.

The statehood referendum in the bankrupt territory of 3.2 million people is non-binding. And although this is the sixth time the issue has been on the ballot, boosters think this round is different — if the political stars align.

If voters say “yes” to statehood, as they did in 2012 and 2017, the pro-statehood gubernatorial candidate Pedro Pierluisi wins, and the Democrats take control of the U.S. Congress, the Caribbean island might have a shot at becoming a state, organizers say.

If so, the Great State of Puerto Rico would be eligible for two seats in the U.S. Senate and five in the House of Representatives. {snip}


With a poverty rate of 43%, Puerto Rico would be the poorest U.S. state — far behind Mississippi at 20%. It would also be the most financially distressed. Puerto Rico and its agencies racked up $74 billion of debt before collapsing into bankruptcy in 2017. {snip}

Proponents of statehood say it’s the only way to give Puerto Ricans a voice, vote and equal footing in federal assistance programs. Critics say it would mean increased federal taxes and obliteration of the island’s unique culture — without necessarily solving any of its pressing problems.