Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rico Status Plebiscite That Wasn't

A majority really didn't vote for statehood


Puerto Ricans like to say that politics is the national sport, and who could argue with that? With a participation rate hovering near 80% and campaigning that features elaborate floats, loud music, and a carnival atmosphere, election day on the island comes off like a mix between Super Bowl Sunday and Mardi Gras. So when the results came in this week that a majority island voters had selected the statehood option on this year's plebiscite, it would seem to be an unprecedented, game-changing event.

After all, in two of the three previous plebiscites, Commonwealth–the current status, which supporters call "free associated state" and detractors call "colony,"–was the clear winner. When the dust cleared and the 2012 tally was in, the numbers were striking: 61.2% of 1.8 million voters said they were in favor of statehood! The world would hold its breath to see if Congress could allow a 51st star would be added to Old Glory.