Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico to hold statehood referendum amid disillusion | Dánica Coto/Associated Press

Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced on Saturday that she will hold a nonbinding referendum in November to decide whether Puerto Rico should become a U.S. state, a move that comes amid growing disillusion with the island’s U.S. territorial status. For the first time in the island’s history, the referendum will ask a single, simple question: Should Puerto Rico be immediately admitted as a U.S. state? It’s an answer that requires approval from U.S. Congress and a question that outraged the island’s small group of independence supporters and members of the main opposition Popular Democratic Party, which supports the status quo. But it’s a gamble that members of the governor’s pro-statehood party are confident will pay off given that Puerto Rico has struggled to obtain federal funds for hurricanes Irma and Maria, a string of recent strong earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic amid growing complaints that the island does not receive fair and equal treatment. “Everything important in life carries some risk,” said former Puerto Rico governor Carlos Romero Barceló, a member of the Progressive New Party. Previous referendums have presented voters with more than one question or various options, including independence or upholding the current territorial status, but none have been so direct as the one scheduled to be held during the Nov. 3 general elections.

Puerto Rico: Internet Voting Plan Threatens Election Security: ACLU | Shannon Bond/ NPR

Puerto Ricans could be casting their ballots online only in the next eight years, according to a bill that is expected to pass this week. Civil liberties advocates are ringing alarm bells over this plan to shift voting online, warning that the move threatens election security and voting rights. The American Civil Liberties Union and its Puerto Rico chapter urged the island’s governor, Wanda Vázquez, to veto a bill containing the Internet voting plan. “There is no secure way to hold elections online,” they wrote in a letter to the governor on Wednesday. “This measure is misguided, dangerous, and will needlessly expose Puerto Rico’s voting system to hacking and disruption.” The ACLU said “such disruption will only result in greater public mistrust of key democratic institutions.” The online voting plan is part of a bill to reform the U.S. territory’s electoral code. The bill is expected to be approved by the legislature by the end of this week. The measure calls for Puerto Rico’s electoral commission to create an Internet voting program that could overhaul the way all the island’s citizens cast their ballots within eight years.

Puerto Rico: Fiscal board calls for changes to Elections Commission | Caribbean Business

The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico recommended the Government of Puerto Rico to take steps to “adjust the operations” of the island’s State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish intials) to “fluctuate with the electoral cycle” and restructure its organization to become more efficient. In a letter to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and House Speaker Carlos Méndez Núñez, the board said the CEE’s operations “do not match the needs that it serves or the fiscal reality of the Island.” “The CEE should be most active in the year leading up to an election but can and should significantly reduce its operations in the remaining three years of an electoral cycle. This is what comparable electoral commissions do in most states” Chairman José Carrión wrote in the letter.

Puerto Rico: Presidential Vote Issue Takes Center Stage | Caribbean Business

Following a petition filed 12 years ago, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) has finally agreed to hear the petition from former Gov. Pedro Rosselló and pro-statehood lawyer Gregorio Igartúa on Puerto Ricans’ inability to vote for U.S. presidential or congressional elections. However, the United States is objecting to the request, stating that while it is true Puerto Ricans do not vote in U.S. elections, it does not constitute a violation of the American Declaration of the Rights & Duties of Man, an international human rights declaration adopted in 1948. The commission, which meets only four times a year, holds its next meeting Oct. 5 in Boulder, Colo. Previously, in 2003, the IACHR ruled that the United States violated the declaration by denying Washington, D.C. the opportunity to participate in Congress.

Puerto Rico: U.S. House committee chair supports Puerto Rico statehood | Reuters

U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop said on Friday he supports the government of Puerto Rico’s efforts to introduce bipartisan legislation in Congress to grant full statehood to the U.S. commonwealth territory. “I am supportive of statehood. I think it is a solution that is long overdue,” Bishop, a Republican from Utah, said during a visit to the island that was broadcast over the internet. Puerto Rico is still in the throes of recovering from September’s devastating spate of hurricanes that killed dozens and completely knocked out power, deepening the economic woes for the island’s 3.4 million U.S. citizens. Many of them have decamped for the mainland United States in search of jobs and social services.

Puerto Rico: Hurricane-hit Puerto Rico launches new drive for US statehood | AFP

Hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico on Wednesday launched a new drive to become the 51st US state, with the island’s governor demanding an end to “second-class” treatment of its citizens. Puerto Rico’s more than three million residents are US citizens, with no obstacles to living and working on the mainland. Yet the US commonwealth in the Caribbean has just a non-voting delegation in the US Congress in Washington, and Puerto Rico residents cannot vote for US president. “It is time to end Puerto Ricans’ second-class citizenship, and statehood is the only guarantee for that to happen,” Governor Ricardo Rossello told a press conference in Washington.

Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico announces shadow congressional delegation | The Hill

Puerto Rican officials on Wednesday introduced the territory’s “Statehood Commission,” a shadow congressional delegation that will make the case for the territory’s statehood. Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R) announced the commission’s members on the House floor, saying territorial status subjects Puerto Ricans “to a second-class citizenship.” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) named former governor Carlos Romero Barceló (D) and Zoraida Fonalledas (R) as shadow senators; and former governor Pedro Rosselló González (D), former governor Luis Fortuño (R), former president of the Senate of Puerto Rico Charles Rodríguez (D), former chief of the U.S. Office of Citizenship Alfonso Aguilar (R), and baseball Hall of Famer Iván ‘Pudge’ Rodríguez (I) as shadow representatives.

Puerto Rico: Continuing One-Hundred Years of Federal Disenfranchisement in Puerto Rico | State of Elections

In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act granting Puerto Ricans American citizenship. Last June 11th Puerto Rico held its sixthplebiscite (popular vote) on altering its territorial relationship with the United States. This was Puerto Rico’s fifth plebiscite on this issue in twenty-six years. While 97% voted in favor of Puerto Rican statehood, as a result of political boycotts, only 23% of the eligible voters participated. Voter turnoutin previous plebiscites ranged from 60% to 78%. None of this bodes well for supporters of Puerto Rican statehood. Opponents to Puerto Rican statehood argue the vote is illegitimate, in part due to the original wording of the ballot, as well as the low voter turnout. In order to qualify for federal funding the ballot had to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department called the first draft of the ballot “ambiguous and potentially misleading” as it only allowed votes for statehood or independence with no reference to retaining Puerto Rico’s current territorial status. The Puerto Rican legislature amended the ballot as requested by the DOJ. However, Puerto Rico’s decided to hold the referendum instead of allowing the DOJ to review the changes.

Puerto Rico: Florida should help protect Puerto Ricans’ voting rights | Miami Herald

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico 2 weeks ago, creating devastating damage and a humanitarian crisis for 3.5 million U.S. citizens. Today, 88 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents lack electricity, 43 percent lack water, the health care and school systems are in shambles, and over 58 citizens have died, while the president has been throwing paper towels at people and tweeting racist diatribes. All this is exacerbated by 100 percent of Puerto Ricans lacking equal access to voting rights. Under the 1917 Jones Act, Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million U.S. citizens do not have voting representatives in Congress, and cannot cast votes for president. The Jones Act was in the news recently, as it restricted non-U.S. ships from docking in Puerto Rico. After being temporarily lifted, the Act’s colonialist shipping restrictions are back in place, limiting access to life-saving supplies.

Puerto Rico: Trump’s response just might bring Puerto Rico voting rights | The Hill

By not sending the U.S. military to deliver humanitarian aid sooner, President Trump has unwittingly become the advocate-in-chief for extending the right to vote for U.S. presidential nominees in the general election to Puerto Ricans. No, he has not (yet) embraced the long-standing Republican Party plank favoring Puerto Rican statehood. Instead, he has left many islanders feeling so hopeless they are fleeing to the mainland — and, along with it, garnering the opportunity to vote for president. Labeling some Puerto Rican political leaders as “ingrates,” and by waiting to act, Trump is motivating desperate islanders to flee to the mainland — mostly Florida — where they automatically can vote for all federal office holders. Even as President Donald Trump landed at Muniz Air National Guard in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Tuesday afternoon, the first three relief centers opened in Miami and Orlando to welcome Puerto Rican newcomers to Florida.

Puerto Rico: Governor swears in congressional delegation | The Hill

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) swore in the seven members of its Puerto Rico Statehood Commission, the delegation that will go to Washington and ask to be seated in Congress as part of the island’s bid for statehood. The commission was sworn in at a ceremony Tuesday at La Fortaleza, the governor’s official residence in San Juan. Rosselló’s father, Pedro Rosselló Nevares (D), a former governor, was named the commission’s chairman. “We will request to be recognized and to be allowed participation in Congress,” Rosselló Nevares told The Hill. Based on the island’s population, Rosselló named five representatives and two senators. That’s the number of members in Congress that Puerto Rico would have if it were a state.

Puerto Rico: Governor pushes statehood after boycott-plagued vote | Politico

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Thursday demanded that the U.S. government recognize his commonwealth as the 51st state, citing the island’s overwhelming vote for statehood four days ago. He faces long odds. “The U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico have taken a stand and have pleaded a choice,” said Rossello, speaking in a small, half-empty room occupied by reporters and his own staff at the National Press Club in Washington. Yet while 97 percent of those who participated backed statehood in the June 11 vote, the nonbinding referendum was boycotted by opposition parties, who either support the current commonwealth status or independence. As a result, less than a quarter of eligible voters cast ballots. Héctor Ferrer, the head of the opposition Popular Democratic Party, called the referendum “a rigged process,” in an interview with POLITICO this month.

Puerto Rico: Governor to take statehood case to Washington but faces US snub | The Guardian

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricard Rosselló, has announced that he is to visit Washington in the next phase of his campaign to turn the island into the 51st state of the United States. Rosselló will go to the US capital armed with a 97% backing for statehood from voters in Sunday’s plebiscite on the future of the stricken US colony. But he faces an uphill struggle impressing his case on the US Congress, which holds ultimate power over Puerto Rico, given the historically low turnout of the vote and the boycott staged by opposition parties. The governor, a 38-year-old member of the ruling Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP), insisted the referendum sent a clear and strong message to Washington. “From today, the federal government will no longer be able to ignore the voice of the majority of the American citizens in Puerto Rico. It would be highly contradictory for Washington to demand democracy in other parts of the world, and not respond to the legitimate right to self-determination that was exercised today in the American territory of Puerto Rico,” he said after the vote.

Puerto Rico: Governor vows statehood push after referendum win | Reuters

Puerto Rico’s governor on Monday said the island’s vote in favor of becoming a U.S. state, despite low voter turnout and widespread boycotts, was “a fair and open” process that U.S. Congress should act upon. An island-wide referendum on Sunday favored statehood in a 97 percent landslide, though voter turnout reached just 23 percent as opponents of Governor Ricardo Rossello’s push to become a state boycotted the vote. The non-binding plebiscite is not expected to sway the U.S. Congress, which would have to agree to make Puerto Rico a state. Currently a U.S. territory, the island is struggling with $70 billion in debt and a 45 percent poverty rate, and is not viewed as a priority in Washington.

Puerto Rico: 23% of Puerto Ricans Vote in Referendum, 97% of Them for Statehood | The New York Times

With schools shuttered, pensions at risk and the island under the authority of an oversight board in New York City, half a million Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to become America’s 51st state, in a flawed election most voters sat out. With nearly all of the precincts reporting, 97 percent of the ballots cast were in favor of statehood, a landslide critics said indicated that only statehood supporters had turned out to the polls. Opposition parties who prefer independence or remaining a territory boycotted the special election, which they considered rigged in favor of statehood. On an island where voter participation often hovers around 80 percent, just 23 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Voting stations accustomed to long lines were virtually empty on Sunday.

Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico votes again on statehood but US not ready to put 51st star on the flag | The Guardian

The hall is a sea of pink and white. About 350 Puerto Ricans, mostly women, have come to hear their First Lady speak in what they hope will be the final push towards a new relationship between their island and the United States. When Beatriz Rosselló, the 32-year-old wife of the governor of Puerto Rico, finally appears at the rally outside the capital San Juan, the room erupts into a frenzy of flag-waving. The American Stars and Stripes with its 50 stars, and the Puerto Rican emblem, with its single one, intertwine amid the flurry, giving the illusion that they have fused: 51 stars in a single banner of red, white and blue. … Rosselló and her supporters of the governing Partido Nuevo Progresista (PNP) hope to take that spirit of unification to the polling stations on Sunday when Puerto Rico holds its fifth plebiscite on statehood in 50 years. The ambition is to deliver such a resounding cry from the island’s 3.4 million citizens that Washington will be forced to take Puerto Rico on board as the 51st state of the United States.

Puerto Rico: Voters go to the polls for statehood | The Hill

Puerto Rico’s government is banking on a push for statehood to solve the structural issues that led to its financial crisis. Puerto Ricans will vote Sunday to decide the territory’s status. If statehood wins, as expected, the island will enact what’s known as the Tennessee Plan, an avenue to accession by which U.S. territories send a congressional delegation to demand to be seated in Washington. Puerto Rico will send two senators and five representatives, chosen by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D), later this year, once the plan is put into action. Statehood remains a long shot as many Republicans are wary of adding a 51st state that could add two Democratic senators and seven Democratic electors to the Electoral College.

Puerto Rico: Could Commonwealth Become A State? Ricardo Rossello Vows To Make History | International Business Times

Puerto Rico’s longtime movement toward statehood saw a significant victory Tuesday night after Puerto Ricans elected Ricardo Rossello of the New Progressive Party in a tightly fought gubernatorial race. Rossello is a vocal supporter of statehood for Puerto Rico and vowed on the campaign trail to turn the debt-ridden Caribbean island into the 51st state. Puerto Ricans are eager for change. More than 200,000 Puerto Ricans have left the island of 3.5 million people in recent years because of an economic crisis that has seen schools shut down and a shortage nurses and doctors. Puerto Rico owes $70 billion in public debt. “I’m honored Puerto Rico gave me an opportunity. … We will establish a quality of life that will allow (Puerto Ricans) to return to the land where they were born,” Rossello, 37, said. He carried nearly 42 percent of the vote, or 566,000 votes, against his main opponent, David Bernier, who had more than 527,000 votes, or 39 percent. Bernier, of the ruling Popular Democratic Party, sought to follow Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who did not seek a second term.

Puerto Rico: Puerto Ricans Flocking to Mainland Could Sway Swing States | Associated Press

Residents of Puerto Rico can’t vote in presidential elections. But with the island’s economy in shambles, many are fleeing to the U.S. mainland, potentially shifting demographic norms in some of the most closely contested states. The impact of Puerto Rican migrants on the election hinges on how successful voting advocates are in getting them to the polls, with many focused more on finding jobs, homes and schools. Together, Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio — three pivotal states in the fall — absorbed more than 22,500 Puerto Rican migrants in 2013 alone. Many more Puerto Ricans already living on the mainland have relocated to these states from traditional hubs such as New York.

Puerto Rico: Vote count stalls in Puerto Rico as officials take day off | Associated Press

It will be a little while longer before final vote totals are known in Puerto Rico’s Democratic presidential primary, because the U.S. territory’s election commission workers took the day off on Monday. Officials will resume manually counting votes on Tuesday and expect to issue a final certification later that day, Roberto Prats, the island’s Democratic Party chairman, told The Associated Press. He said officials worked until nearly dawn counting results of both the presidential primary and a local primary in which voters narrowed their choice for the island’s next governor, legislators and mayors. “We will resume tomorrow morning and try to close the local and presidential primaries at 100 percent,” Prats said, adding that election workers received compensation time on Monday. Griselle Lopez, the elections commission spokeswoman, did not return messages for comment.

Puerto Rico: Statehood backers see opportunity as woes deepen | Associated Press

Revelers arrived in cars sporting the American flag and wore clothes in red, white and blue as they celebrated the anniversary of Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood political party with deafening salsa music and speeches. Like many others worried about the U.S. territory’s future, those rallying Thursday night in the coastal town of Manati believe statehood can help pull it out of a nearly a decade of economic stagnation. “Puerto Rico has to become a state,” insisted 63-year-old celebrant Norma Candelario. With unemployment at 12 percent, and the public debt reaching $72 billion, advocates for making the Caribbean island the 51st state say the economic woes are strengthening their arguments. As a state, Puerto Rico’s municipalities and public utilities would no longer be prohibited from restructuring their debts through bankruptcy. It would also receive more of certain kinds of federal funding that other states get.

Puerto Rico: Exodus from Puerto Rico could upend Florida vote in 2016 presidential race | The Washington Post

Puerto Rico’s economic crisis meant Jeffrey Rondon, 25, struggled to find even part-time work, so he recently joined the growing exodus from his Caribbean island to Florida. Now he holds a full-time restaurant job and something that could upend the 2016 presidential election — the right to vote in Florida, the biggest of all swing states. “It’s important to vote and be heard — it’s a privilege,” said Rondon, who is one of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have moved to Florida in the past year. As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are relatively easy to register to vote, and they are attracting unprecedented attention because they could change the political calculus in a state that President Obama won by the thinnest of margins in 2012: 50 percent to 49.1 percent.

Puerto Rico: Congress tackles issue of Puerto Rico’s status | The CT Mirror

For the first time since the Republican Party took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, Congress will hold a hearing on Puerto Rico’s status. Wednesday’s hearing, featuring witnesses representing all of Puerto Rico’s political parties, has been scheduled by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, the head of a House Natural Resources subcommittee. It has with authority over the five U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico. In addition to considering the island’s identity as a geo-political unit, the hearing will also focus on Puerto Rico’s severe economic problems. Young has long favored granting statehood to Puerto Rico and cosponsored legislation proposed by Resident Commisioner Pedro Pierluisi that would require a vote on the island within one year on the statehood question.

Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico seizes on 2016 election to push its case with candidates | The Guardian

For a small Caribbean island barely half the size of Connecticut, Puerto Rico seems to be assuming outsized importance in the race for the White House. A flying visit this week from the former Florida governor Jeb Bush – who appears ever closer to announcing his intention to seek the Republican presidential nomination – placed the US territory and its electorate of 2.4 million at the heart of his push to win back Hispanic voters. Bush, who speaks Spanish fluently and who has a Mexican wife, told supporters at public appearances in San Juan and Bayamón about the party’s need to reconnect with the Latino vote.

Puerto Rico: Voting Rights For Noncitizens Debated | International Business Times

Puerto Rico is undergoing a widespread debate regarding the governor’s plans to support a bill extending voting rights to all island residents, regardless of immigration status. Puerto Rico’s largely Dominican immigrant community has celebrated the proposal, but opponents say the move will undermine the privileges granted by citizenship. Gov. Alejandro García Padilla declared last month he would submit legislation allowing all noncitizen residents to vote in islandwide elections, a move with significant implications for the hundreds of thousands of Dominican immigrants estimated to be living on the island.

Puerto Rico: Governer Proposes Voting Rights for All, Regardless of Immigration Status | Good Magazine

Puerto Rico governer Alejandro Garcia Padilla has announced plans for legislation that would grant the right to vote to all of its estimated 200,000-400,000 undocumented immigrants. The statements came at a recent public meeting with the president of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina, during which the two politicians signed various agreements to tackle economics, education, security, and environmental issues together. “Today, we would like to break down the barriers that prevent immigrants from contributing all that they truly can to economic recovery and social progress in Puerto Rico,” said Padilla earlier this month.

Puerto Rico: Political Campaign Calls To Reunite With Spain, Leave U.S. | Latin Post

The Puerto Rico Reunification With Spain is a small group of Puerto Ricans who launched a campaign to relinquish that nation’s political ties with the U.S. and realign itself with Spain. Jose Nieves, the group’s founder, told Fox News Latino that since the U.S. acquired the Caribbean island following the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Spanish and Puerto Rican culture has started to disappear. “The U.S. distorted our history. Noboby here knows we were Spanish citizens with full voting rights until the 1898 invasion,” Nieves said. “The United States denies us that right.” The 42-year-old history buff, who earned a criminology degree from the Caribbean University, also noted that his home was once a Spanish colony that received its sovereignty as a Spanish province in 1897. Puerto Rico, which is currently an unincorporated territory of the U.S., was a Spanish colony for more than four centuries.

Puerto Rico: U.S.-Based Puerto Ricans Want Equality, Right To Vote, Statehood Back Home | Fox News Latino

Puerto Rican attorney Iara Rodriguez waved campaign signs and cheered at the 2012 Democratic Convention as President Barack Obama was nominated. But the delegate’s euphoria faded when she returned home and, like everyone else living in Puerto Rico, could only watch as the rest of the country voted for its commander in chief. By January, she had moved to Orlando, joining a record number of Puerto Ricans who have left the island in recent years — more than 60,000 in 2012 — the majority landing in Florida. Most are fleeing Puerto Rico’s economic crisis, yet their presence on the mainland is drawing newfound attention to an age-old question back home of whether Puerto Rico should become the 51st state, remain a territory or become independent. A loose coalition of civic leaders in Florida and on the island is seeking to leverage the state’s growing Puerto Rican presence to turn this issue into something the rest of Americans can easily understand: a fight for equality and the right to vote. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth, but because the island is only a territory, its residents can vote for president only if they move to a state.

Puerto Rico: Will Puerto Rico Be America’s 51st State? | NYTimes.com

One of the little-noticed results of the Nov. 6 elections was a plebiscite held in Puerto Rico on the island’s relationship with the United States. The outcome was murky, much like the last century’s worth of political history between Washington and San Juan, and the mainland’s confused or disinterested attitude toward Puerto Rico that abetted it. Ever since the United States invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 and then was handed the island by Spain as part of the settlement for the Spanish-American War, the island’s people — American citizens since the passage of the Jones Act in 1917 — have been continuously put in situations where they are simultaneously auditioning for statehood, agitating for independence, and making the very best of living in limbo.