The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has turned down the chance to become a state in 1967, 1993, and 1998, but the residents of the island will have yet another chance to become the 51st state this November.
Today marks the 53rd year since Hawaii became the nation’s 50th state, and, as Yahoo reports, the process isn’t an easy one. The Constitution isn’t terribly clear on the statehood process, but Article IV, Section 3 gives congress the authority to handle it. Puerto Rico, however, won’t be made a state if its citizens don’t want it to happen.
This November’s ballot will be different than past statehood initiatives. This ballot will ask two questions. First, residents will be asked if they would like to move away from Puerto Rico’s status as a US territory. The second part asks what the plan should be moving forward: remain a territory, become an independent country, or become the 51st state. A majority will need to choose statehood for the process to begin.
As a territory, Puerto Rico’s residents cannot vote in presidential elections and are represented in congress only by a non-voting member called a Resident Commissioner, currently Pedro Pierluisi.
The Christian Post notes that if Puerto Rico were to join as a state, it would shift the balance of power in congress. With statehood would come two senators and one representative in the House. How that balance would work out is largely unknown as Puerto Rico’s political parties do not match up with the Democrat/Republican dynamic of the mainland but rather are divided based on the desire to become a state, remain a territory, or become independent.
Luis Fortuno, Puerto Rico’s governor, is a strong supporter of Puerto Rico becoming a state.