"The United States of America will have to obey the will of our people!" declared Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosello “to a crowd clutching U.S. flags and dancing to a tropical jingle that promoted statehood.”Governor Rosello was celebrating the “overwhelming” victory for statehood in Puerto Rico’s status referendum held on June 11th. (For background, see my pre-referendum article here).
Puerto Rico upholds statehood demand in contentious vote,, by Danica Coto, Associated Press, June 12, 2017
NBC News reported that “Puerto Rico voted overwhelmingly last Sunday to join the United States as the 51st state…”
A few days after the referendum, Governor Rosello was in Washington, D.C.
There Rosello proclaimed that
As part of the democratic exercise on our island, we are making sure today that Congress receive the message that the people of Puerto Rico are claiming their equal rights as American citizens.The people of Puerto Rico spoke. Congress has to act now. When Martin Luther King fought for civil rights, when women fought for their rights to suffrage, they weren’t waiting for the right time. They thought that the right time was right now. And we need to act in the same way and accordingly.But how overwhelming was the voice for statehood? Yes, 97% voted for statehood. But the turnout was extremely low, with anti-statehood parties boycotting the referendum, making CNN’s headline (Some) Puerto Ricans vote for statehood more accurate.
Only 23% of Puerto Rico’s electorate voted. That was 518,000 people. As Hector Ferrer of the Popular Democratic Party put it, most people “stayed home” or “went to the beach” rather than vote.
According to the AP, “It was the lowest level of participation in any election in Puerto Rico since 1967, noted Carlos Vargas Ramos, an associate with the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York. He told The Associated Press that even among voters who supported statehood, turnout was lower this year compared with the previous referendum in 2012.”
Given this low turnout, there were 300,000 fewer people voting for statehood than did so in 2012.