Observers pleased with voter turnout in Puerto Rico status referendum
SAN JUAN – U.S. observers praised the political status referendum vote held Sunday in Puerto Rico, where statehood gained broad support against the free-association / independence and commonwealth options.
“In democracy, those who do not participate do not count,” said Nelly Gorbea, Rhode Island’s secretary of State, who, along with Congressmen Don Young (R-Alaska) and Darren Soto (D-Florida), observed the Puerto Rico vote.
Young was satisfied with the vote and said it was a transparent and clean process that he hoped would be validated by the U.S. Congress.
The president of the Puerto Rico State Elections Commission (CEE), Liza García, also highlighted the work done by the officials of that entity and said no major problems were reported in the vote. She added that former CEE President César Vázquez will lead an official vote count that begins June 19.
Sunday’s referendum offered statehood advocates hope to finalize a colonial relationship of more than a century under the U.S government. The vote was a campaign promise of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, fulfilled by holding it during his first year in office, which, like his father, former Gov. Pedro Rosselló, held two status referendums while in power from 1993 to 2001.
Puerto Rico has held five status referendums since 1967, when the current commonwealth status garnered 60% of the vote. Then, in 1993, commonwealth beat statehood by a 48% to 46% margin.
Then, in 1998, the “None of the above” option prevailed in that third status vote, the results of which were interpreted as a protest vote by the people in rejection of the then governor’s decision to hold it despite Hurricane Georges, which devastated the island.
In 2012’s referendum, voters were asked if they favored the current commonwealth relationship to which 54% of voters said no. The ballot included a second question about status preference, in which the choice of statehood obtained 61.6% over the commonwealth’s 33.44%.
Despite what appeared to be an overwhelming majority in the latter vote, the result was not taken seriously by the U.S. Congress, after 498,604 people cast blank ballots.
Opponents of the statehood movement calculated–454,798 votes for sovereign state and 498,694 blank votes along with 74,895 votes in favor of independence–to claim a majority over the 834,191 votes for statehood.
The Puerto Rico State Elections Commission results as of 7:15 p.m. Sunday:
|Free Association/Proclamation of Independence|
|Current Territorial Status|
|NOT AWARDED BALLOTS||1|
|BALLOTS WITH NO AWARD VALUE…||983|
|REGISTERED VOTERS IN REPORTED VOTING PLACES…||2,246,728|
|TOTAL ENVELOPES OF VOTERS THAT VOTED BY PROVISIONAL BALLOTS…||5,633|