Monday, 19 November 2012

Backdated - Puerto Rico - the 51st state?

I recently had the great pleasure of discussing with more than one of my closest friends the Puerto Rico referendum held in conjunction with the US elections. You know who you are, and I'm not going to embarrass you as terrible nerds by naming you.

Suffice to say, I am not the only person I know who discusses foreign voting beyond the presidential election.

I was not personally following the referendum. My understanding is that my friends weren't either, they just heard it on the news... (Sure, guys. Whatever you say.)

As I pointed out at the time, several referendums to this effect have been held, so I did not expect too much to come out of this. However, this is not entirely fair of me, on further examination.
  • The 1967 referendum saw over 60% support Puerto Rico remaining a commonwealth under the U.S.
  • The 1993 referendum saw a closer result, with 48.6% for remaining a commonwealth and 46.3% for statehood. In both referendums, independence received significantly less than 10% of the vote.
  • The 1998 referendum independence received 2.6% of the vote, with free association with the U.S. and remaining a commonwealth dropping below 0.5% - when combined! I don't know what caused this shift in 5 years, but it was dramatic. Statehood received 46.6% of the vote, but 'none of the above' got over 50%, and no progress was made.
in 2012, independence is still well under 10%, but entering a free association leapt to around a quarter of the total vote, and a third of all valid votes. The question of remaining a commonwealth was treated separately, and 'none of the above' was not included. All of this seems to me to be playing with statistics so the driving force behind the referendum get the results it wants.

By spiting the question in two, it unites everyone against remaining a commonwealth to outnumber those who favour it, giving a ~150,000 vote lead to those who want change. If this was treated as one question, the 817,241 voters who favour remaining a commonwealth (Q.1) would rival the 824,238 in favour of statehood (Q.2.), and possibly out-rank them if 'none of the above' or another option was given. I think the numbers were close, so the question was split to get the desired result.

Even so, statehood received less than 45% of the total vote, and only exceeded 60% due to many invalid votes (incorrectly filled in ballots, not filled in ballots, etc.). How many of those would have opted for an alternative, valid option if remaining a commonwealth had been an option in Q.2.?

Still, technically Puerto Rico has voted for statehood. The ball is now in the U.S. court (or rather, the U.S. government, as the judiciary is separate to the legislature and executive (government puns!)) but I'd expect fast(ish) movement. The U.S. will probably take this as an ego boost: look, another example of countries that envy us and want to join us.

(An interesting contrast can be seen in Stephen Fry in America (I think it was SFiA, anyway) where people patrol the Canadian border because "a lot of people would love to enter this country, where we have democracy" (paraphrased). P.S. for the U.S.: Canada is a democracy too, even if it does have socialised health care!)

Futhermore, many past and present presidents (well, technically only one present president) have been pushing Puerto Rico to join the union - see:

So, I'll finish with (a) an observation by my referenda-aware friends, and (b) a few other statistics from wikipedia:

(a) Puerto Rico, as the 51st state, would be entitled to 5 seats in the House of Reps (assuming the 435 seats are not added to), which with 2 new senate seats would make 7 seats on the electoral college.

(b) Puerto Rico would be the 29th largest state by population, just ahead of Connecticut, and 49th largest state by area, ahead of Delaware and Rhode Island. It would be the only state to have been visited by Columbus, and have both the oldest state capital and the oldest U.S. city with continuous inhabitation by Europeans. It would be the eastmost and southmost state, replacing Maine and Hawaii respectively, and add another timezone (AST: Atlantic Standard Time) to the many in use across the U.S.

No comments:

Post a Comment