by Graham Pierrepoint
It was back in 1959 when the US last accepted a new state into its family – that, of course, being Hawaii – but there have been numerous discussions for some time over whether or not there is enough room to usher in a 51st region to tip the balance over the half-century mark. While the US administration arguably has many issues facing it right now – US Congress may now be in a position to hear a request from a region who has recently held a vote on whether or not they should apply to join – and that region is Puerto Rico.
Despite a fairly low turnout, Puerto Ricans have voted in a large majority to agree on applying for statehood as part of the US – the nation’s residents already have US citizenship rights and have done so for almost a century – and Governor Ricardo Rossello believes that the outcome of the referendum, while not binding, will clearly point out how the nation feels about becoming part of US territory. The stumbling block, however, will be that – despite a majority of voters agreeing to apply for statehood – only 23% of registered voters cast a ballot. Therefore, those opposed to Puerto Rico approaching Congress argue that the vote result may not be as valid as some pro-state campaigners may hope.
In fact, it is thought a total of 480,000 votes agreed that the country should apply to become a state – out of a country population of almost 3.5 million. Certainly, on the face of things, this data shows a minority in agreement – but Governor Rossello feels it may be enough for US Congress to listen to Puerto Rican appeal. The country benefits from citizenship rights but does not retain the right to vote in Presidential elections and continues to pay for certain elements such as Social Security.
It is not the first time that a statehood ballot has been held in the country – as Puerto Rico has not yet had their votes approved by the US Justice Department. Certainly, it seems that this current referendum is yet to be backed, too – meaning that despite the positive outcome in favour of joining the US, there may be something of a hill to climb just yet. Governor Rossello and those in favor remain positive – but it will remain to be seen if we get a 51st state in our lifetime.