For the first time ever, the residents of Puerto Rico and people born in Puerto Rico but living in the U.S., would be given the opportunity to vote on changing their relationship to the U.S. in a plebiscite authorized by the U.S. Congress under a bill approved by the House last night.
The bill, called the Puerto Rico Democracy Act, sets up a two-step voting process for Puerto Rico. The first vote would ask whether to change Puerto Rico's current relationship to the U.S. or keep things as they are. If a majority votes for change, a second vote would take place asking people to choose among four options -- U.S. statehood, independence, a continuation of the commonwealth status, or sovereignty in association with the U.S. The vote would be non-binding -- the U.S. Congress would have to vote to approve the results of the plebiscite under the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution -- but by passing this bill and authorizing the plebiscite, the House is making an implicit promise that they will go along with whatever a majority of Puerto Ricans choose.
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The House of Representatives has something on their docket this week called the Puerto Rico Democracy Act of 2009. People on Twitter are referring to it as a vote on making Puerto Rico the 51st state. That's not quite accurate, though the bill would make Puerto Rican statehood a stronger possibility than it has ever been.
Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898. Currently, all Puerto Ricans have U.S. citizenship, they have a non-voting "resident commissioner" in the U.S. House of Representatives (Pedro Pierluisi [D, PR-0]), they have some governing autonomy in their internal affairs, but on their most contentious and most important political issue, their political status and relationship to the U.S., governance decisions are held by the U.S. Congress and the President under the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution.Read Full Article Comments (7)