May 9, 2021

LIVE RESULTS: Puerto Rico statehood: Voters say whether the territory should become the 51st state

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  • Puerto Ricans will vote on election day to see if the US territory should move to become a state or be granted independence.
  • Polls in Puerto Rico closed at 4 p.m. ET. and 5 p.m. local time.
  • Whether Puerto Rico votes for statehood or not, there is nothing to compel or force Congress to act on Puerto Rico’s political status, as it is a territory, not a state.
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Polls in Puerto Rico closed at 4 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. local time.

As millions across the US vote in the presidential election, Puerto Ricans will be answering a different question on Election Day: Do you want the territory to become a state?

A referendum for statehood was placed onto the ballot in January as part of Senate Bill 1467 in the Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly. If it is approved, the governor of Puerto Rico will appoint a seven-person commission to represent the island in statehood negotiations. If the governor then accepted the plan, it would be presented to the US Congress and the president.

Full statehood for Puerto Rico would allow its residents constitutional rights that Puerto Ricans do not have: the ability to vote in presidential and congressional elections.

According to SB1467, if Puerto Ricans vote against statehood, a similar commission will be created to negotiate Puerto Rican independence or free association. 

A freely associated state is an independent nation that signs a Compact of Free Association, an agreement with the US concerning military, economic, and diplomatic relations. There are three freely associated states: the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia.

An example of an independent country breaking from the US is the Philippines, which was granted full independence from the US in 1946.

Whether or not Puerto Rico votes for statehood, there is nothing to compel or force Congress to act on Puerto Rico’s political status, as it is a territory, not a state. According to the “territorial clause” of the US Constitution, “Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States.”

The text of the referendum for Puerto Rico statehood reads as follows in Spanish:

“¿Debe Puerto 3 Rico ser admitido inmediatamente dentro de la Unión como un Estado?”

“Sí” o “No”

Translated, the question reads:

“Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted into the Union as a state?”

“Yes” or “No”