A historic vote just took place in the USA. Oh, and Obama won too…

I’ve no idea how this flew under the radar, but the outside world (bar the BBC) has largely ignored the most historic American plebiscite since the 1950s.

Obama’s re-election, important though it is in itself, might find itself eclipsed by what just took place in Puerto Rico – a clear popular vote in favour of statehood. If ratified by Congress (there is bipartisan support for the idea, although getting it though today’s cantankerous House may be tricky), PR will become the 51st state of the USA, the first new state in over 50 years.

Unlike the other almost-state (Washington DC), PR does not currently have a vote in presidential elections, and has a population significant enough (3.7 million, or 29th out of 51) to give it 7 electoral college votes – hardly Florida, but no Wyoming either. The Puerto Rican party system is currently based along constitutional lines, with the main parties representing the statehood, independence and status quo positions. How, or whether, this will fit into the US two-party system is an open question. Republicans currently do badly among Hispanics in general, however Puerto Ricans, like Cuban-Americans, might buck that trend.

Sure, a president was just re-elected. But presidential elections themselves are about to change, and in unpredictable ways.

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  • I’d want a second opinion on that one, Andrew Gallagher @ 10:55pm.

    Take it from the top:

    1. 54% voted “No” on continuing the present status as a US territory. Hardly decisive in itself.

    2. Half a million voters (presumably the other 46% from 1 above) then simply skipped the second-half of the ballot.

    3. Just 800,000 then voted for statehood, what the Washington Post calls “a slim majority”. Obama’s position is to support statehood if there were a “clear majority”. We have a lexical problem!

    4. It seems that a fifth or so of Puerto Ricans would prefer straight independence. General opinion has it this proportion would continue to grow as long as statehood is delayed.

    5. Were Puerto Rico accepted as the 51st State, it would rate 2 Senators (almost guaranteed to be Democrats), perhaps 5 Congressmen (again, assume four Democrats) — and so seven votes in the Electoral College (all sure Democrat under present circumstances). That’s not going to sell to the GOP!

  • dodrade

    Wouldn’t they lose their separate Olympic team though if the island is annexed?

  • Kevsterino

    Maybe we can bring Guam into the fold at the same time for a bit of balance. They are Americans too, you know. “Where America’s Day Begins” billboards were strewn about when I was there in the 70’s.