The commonwealth status option’s trajectory in 4 referendums
SAN JUAN – As of 1967, voters in Puerto Rico have been summoned to vote in four status referendums. Since then, according to numbers from the State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish initials), the commonwealth has consistently been losing support.
In the July 23, 1967, status plebiscite, convened by then-Gov. Roberto Sánchez Vilella, the commonwealth status option garnered 425,132 votes (60.4%), while statehood had 274,312 (39%) votes, and independence obtained 4,248 (0.06%). In contrast, in the Nov. 6, 2012, plebiscite, statehood obtained the majority of votes, with 834,181 (61.16%), while the “sovereign commonwealth” amassed 474,768 votes (33.34%), and independence saw an increase, with 74,895 (5.49%) votes.
On that occasion, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), which defends the commonwealth status, encouraged its supporters to leave the ballot blank, and 498,604 ballots were cast as such.
In the Nov. 14, 1993, referendum, established by Pedro Rosselló González in his first term as governor, the commonwealth obtained 826,326 votes (48.6%) compared to 788,296 (46.3%) in favor of statehood, and 75,620 (4.4%) votes for independence.
Afterward, in the Dec. 13, 1998 referendum, which also convened by Rosselló González, the commonwealth received 993 (0.1%) votes; statehood, 728,157 (46.5%); independence 39,838 (2.5%); and free association, 4,536 (0.3%).
However, in that referendum, commonwealth advocates and others who didn’t support statehood convinced the court to allow the “none of the above” option to be included, which obtained the majority of the votes, with 787,900 (50.3%) of votes.
In that referendum, the vote was developed based on four petitions to the U.S. Congress to define Puerto Rico’s status. Voters could choose one of the presented formulas or indicate their preference for none of them, which was defined as a valid option along with the four petitions.
Since “none of the above” triumphed in the plebiscite, the commonwealth was maintained.
In the 2012 status referendum, a first question was posed to voters to express whether they were in agreement with the commonwealth’s inherent territorial condition.
“No” obtained the most votes, with 970,910 (53.97%), while “Yes” obtained 828,077 (46.03%).
Fast-forward to today, and voters are preparing to vote once again June 11 for their status preference, between statehood and independence/free-association, in a process that Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares has deemed the beginning of Puerto Rico’s decolonization. The referendum excludes the commonwealth. The most recent decision by the U.S. Congress reiterating the territorial condition of that political status formula.
The upcoming referendum has been criticized by PDP and commonwealth supporters. They claim it is designed to give statehood an unreal majority and that it is not binding in Congress, which hasn’t made a commitment to validate its results.