A report by Zach Budryk for The Hill.
Puerto Ricans voted in favor of U.S. statehood Tuesday, the sixth time the territory has held such a nonbinding referendum, The New York Times reported.
The U.S. territory voted 52 percent to 48 percent in favor of the referendum. While the question won by a large margin in 2017, pro-independence and pro-territory groups boycotted the vote, leading to just 23 percent turnout.
Turnout was around 51 percent for the 2020 plebiscite and gubernatorial election but was far below the average for previous votes for governor.
However, the “clear majority” voting in favor of statehood would give the statehood movement increased leverage, according to Carlos Vargas-Ramos, director of public policy at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.
“They can use that as a way to urge and nudge Congress to act,” Vargas-Ramos told The New York Times.
Congressional Republicans have frequently dismissed the statehood movement as a scheme to add Democratic senators and representatives.
“This is largely a symbolic vote, but one that has significance,” former White House Director of Global Engagement Brett Bruen told Fox News. “If the island’s wish for independence is not honored, that creates a major blemish on America’s global image. It [would] look like Washington is standing in the way of Puerto Ricans’ democratic aspirations.”
Pedro Pierluisi, the candidate of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, was also poised to win the gubernatorial race, leading pro-status quo candidate Carlos Delgado by about 12,000 votes as of Wednesday, according to NBC News.
“The people have declared that we no longer want this status,” Pierluisi said in a statement. “We want equality.”