The little territory of Puerto Rico has held several referendums on statehood in the past, notably in 1967, 1993 and 1998. In all of those, the island has selected to remain a territory, neither to go independent nor to become a state.
Last night, in a surprising vote, the island territory voted a near 2/3 majority to become a US State.
For becoming a state, the US Constitution (Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2) says this:
The 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 rules set forth by Congress makes this a well-defined process:
- A referendum vote is held, determining the people’s wish for statehood.
- If the majority has voted to seek statehood, the territory sends a petition to Congress, asking for statehood.
- If needed, the territory must adopt a republican form of government and constitution, which comply with the U.S. Constitution.
- The full Congress must pass by a simple majority vote a joint resolution which accepts the territories petition.
- The President of the United States signs the joint resolution.
With this move, the steps ahead are clear. With statehood, Puerto Rico gains more than it loses. It gains a voice, equal to the other members within Congress. By population, Puerto Rico would have 5 seats in Congress, eliminating seats from Washington, Texas, California and Minnesota according to the 2010 census. It would also gain two Senators as well, changing the dynamics in the upper house dramatically.
With this step, it is clear that for the 2016 election, a whole new dynamic has now entered into play. The rules which people have grown used to are being thrown about as a new player enters the stage. The winds of change are indeed blowing, not just for Puerto Rico, but for the United States of America.
Viva la Estados Unidos de America!