Posted by Mary Chastain Sunday, June 11, 2017 at 6:00pm | 6/11/2017 – 6:00pm
Puerto Ricans went to the polls today to vote on possible statehood with America. The majority of people voted yes, but only 23% of the people voted, which could call into question the validity “of the nonbinding referendum.”
From The Wall Street Journal:
According to early results on a government website, statehood drew 97% of support with more than 90% of votes counted Sunday afternoon, but a turnout of about 23% reflected the success of a boycott effort led by opponents.
If the turnout is too low, political foes to statehood will say the vote isn’t credible, which could further hurt Puerto Rico’s already daunting chances of getting Congress to grant the island full admission to the U.S., said Christina Duffy Ponsa, an expert on constitutional law and Puerto Rican statehood at Columbia Law School.
The Popular Democratic Party, the major opposition party, asked people to boycott the vote. The party wants “to keep the island’s current status, though with more autonomy.” It also claimed that “the referendum is rigged in support of statehood, in part because the governing party had initially sought to exclude the territorial option from the ballot.”
Two other parties boycotted the vote.
This is the fifth time Puerto Rico has voted for statehood. In 2012, the results came out in favor statehood, “but the results were questioned and Puerto Rico’s status remained the same.”
If the referendum stands, the Congress needs to approve it.
Would Congress Approve?
Congress would probably deny the petition since Puerto Rico remains in a financial crisis. I blogged in May that the island has sought “bankruptcy” protection since it faces $123 billion in bond and pension debts.
The Puerto Rico Financial Oversight and Management Board invoked the Puerto Rico Debt Relief Bill, which Congress passed in 2016. As a territory, the island cannot receive the same Chapter 9 protections like the states.
With that law invoked, the island’s “standoff with creditors” will now go “before a federal judge in San Juan in a restructuring process known as Title III.” Supreme Court Justice John Roberts will select a judge to hear the case. He may choose any federal judge he wishes.