Sunday, Puerto Rican voters looked like they were headed to choose statehood over independence (or the status quo), but the referendum most likely won’t change a thing for the island territory.
At the time of reporting, over 97% of voters chose statehood. The referendum is “non-binding” and would only move forward if Congress approved of it, which most likely will not happen considering the island’s debt of over $70 billion and its 45% poverty rate.
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If granted statehood, Puerto Rico would be granted access to federal funds and in that same breath would be the same as any other U.S. State.
This year’s referendum on statehood was Puerto Rico’s fifth. Statehood won for the first time in the last vote, in 2012, but the results were questioned and Puerto Rico’s status remained the same.
Turnout in the election was low, with initial statistics showing below 25 percent of voters went to the polls. The island’s major opposition party, the Popular Democratic Party, boycotted the election. Two other political parties that don’t support statehood also boycotted the election.
The Department of Justice did not back the referendum.
The ballot this year asked voters if they wanted statehood, independence or to remain a territory of the United States.