Puerto Rico Election Shows Voters Favor Statehood

Voters in Puerto Rico have chosen to become a state, but the extremely low turnout as a result of a boycott threatens to undermine the credibility of the non-binding vote.

Asked which status Puerto Rico should have, more than 97 percent of voters chose statehood, against 1.5 percent who chose independence or free association and 1.3 percent who prefer to stay as a territory.

Several opposition parties had urged residents to boycott the referendum, raising questions about the validity of the vote – meaning only 23 percent of registered voters showed up to cast a ballot.

The results of Sunday’s referendum are non-binding as only the U.S. Congress has the power to change the territory’s political status.

Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens yet they lack certain rights, such as the right to vote in presidential elections. They also lack full representation in Congress, where only a non-voting commissioner is able to represent the territory.

This was the fifth vote on the matter. The most recent was in 2012, where the majority voted in favor of statehood, but Congress never picked up the matter.