There's a massive get out the vote campaign in the United States, with both major political parties stressing that every vote should count.
Contrast that to Puerto Rico. It also has an election Nov. 3, but none of the votes will really count on the major issue:
Should the U.S. territory become a U.S. state?
Millions of island residents will weigh in on that question. The problem is that question has been asked repeatedly and the answer has never carried any actual weight.
The U.S. does not have to abide by the decision. The referendum is just another show vote, the third in the past eight years.
It's long been the defining issue between the Puerto Rican Independence Party and the New Progressive Party. Every time a referendum rolls around, the go-to mantra in the U.S. is "Puerto Ricans should decide" about statehood.
A lot of politicians say that. It's what the Democratic and Republican party platforms favor.
That's also been our position. We believe Puerto Rico should become the 51st state, but we've also written that its citizens should decide that issue for themselves.
The truth is "Puerto Ricans should decide" is meaningless to many Puerto Ricans. They are tired of being asked to state their position knowing nobody will act on it.
The U.S. Congress needs to negotiate a binding agreement that will grant statehood if Puerto Ricans vote for it. It's too late for such a pact this time, but this issue is certainly not going away. All sides want to end centuries of territorial limbo.
Spain claimed Puerto Rico shortly after Columbus arrived in 1493. It briefly gained independence in 1897, then the U.S. claimed it as a territory after the Spanish-American War.
Puerto Rico has literally been a country for nine months out of the past 527 years. Being the world's oldest colony is wearing thin on both the island and the U.S. mainland.
Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, but it's a second-class version. They can serve in the U.S. military but are not allowed to vote in U.S. elections and have no voting representation in Congress.
The country was mired in a fiscal crisis before being battered in recent years by hurricanes, earthquakes and now the COVID-19 pandemic. Puerto Rico should have the right to address those problems on its own terms as any self-determining country should.
Either that, or it should become a state and receive the support and benefits every U.S. state gets. This half-in status made it easy for the Trump administration to treat the island as a nagging afterthought following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
The U.S. Constitution lays out an inexact process for attaining statehood. A territory must petition Congress and adopt a constitutional form of government.
Both houses of Congress then vote on admission. If it passes, the president signs a resolution granting statehood.
Republican leaders are against Puerto Rico becoming a state, believing it would lean heavily Democratic and shift congressional power against them. If Donald Trump is reelected and the Senate stays in Republican control, they will likely ignore any referendum that doesn't come down firmly in favor of Puerto Rican independence.
They can ignore the issue, but it's not going away.
Democrats largely favor statehood for Puerto Rico. If they take power in January, a yes vote on the referendum would spur them to forge ahead and make the territory our 51st state.
That would indeed end the drama. It would not resolve the oldest and most divisive issue on the island.
"Puerto Ricans should decide" means they all agree a particular referendum should be the ultimate decider. The independence party is already calling the referendum "a sham."
The August primary was botched when many voting centers were shut down due to a lack of ballots. The Department of Justice did not approve of the wording of election materials and withheld $2.5 million that would have helped pay for the November election.
A legitimate referendum needs everybody to buy in before they go to the polls. That's never been the case.
The first referendum on statehood was rejected way back in 1967. The next three didn't produce clear majorities.
The last one in 2017 passed with 97% approval, but the election had only a 23% turnout. Pro-independence voters thought the process was rigged and sat it out.
Previous referendums were confusing and poorly worded, but the latest version gets right to the point.
"¿Debe Puerto Rico ser admitido inmediatamente dentro de la Union como un Estado?
Si o No."
"Should Puerto Rico be admitted immediately into the Union as a State?
Yes or No."
The question can't truly be answered until all sides agree beforehand they will abide by it. But that doesn't mean the Nov. 3 referendum is a waste of time.
It's proof that millions of Puerto Ricans want action. They want to become an independent nation or join the one that has controlled their island for 122 years.
Puerto Rico should decide.
But it can't truly decide until Congress decides millions of votes should actually count.
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