Thursday, November 8, 2012

Things You May Have Missed: Puerto Rico May Soon Be the 51st State

Posted By on Thu, Nov 8, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Tuesday was a pretty busy day for just about everyone that didn't pop a few Ambien to sleep through the stress of wall-to-wall election coverage, so you'd be forgiven for missing this little bit of news.

But on Voting Day, Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood for the first time in their history.


Puerto Ricans were asked about their desires in two parts. First, by a 54% to 46% margin, voters rejected their current status as a U.S. commonwealth. In a separate question, 61% chose statehood as the alternative, compared with 33% for the semi-autonomous "sovereign free association" and 6% for outright independence.

The next step is for Congress to approve Puerto Rican statehood, though critics have a number of problems with the vote as it was laid out. For one, Puerto Rico tends to lean liberal. From U.S. News:

Politically, there's little chance of Puerto Rico becoming the 51st state with a split Congress. Puerto Ricans in the United States vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, and elected officials in Puerto Rico are nearly always Democrats, so House Republicans have little reason to approve a Puerto Rican statehood bill.

"While they have different party names in Puerto Rico, they're usually one shade of Democrat or another," John Hudak, a governance studies fellow at the Brookings Institution, says of the island's politics.

That becomes troublesome with a Republican-controlled House, Hudak says. The situation is similar to one in 2009, where a compromise was nearly struck between House Democrats and Republicans that would have given Washington, D.C., a voting member of Congress. The compromise would have added two House seats, with the second going to a newly created (and likely conservative) district in Utah.

That deal ultimately failed, and Puerto Rican statehood is even more problematic. With statehood, Puerto Rico would get a voting member in the House and two Senators.

"If it became a state, it would gain seats in the House—that could be offset by expanding the size of the House so Republican states got more members," Hudak says. "But there's no solution to the two Democratic Senators they'd send, and there's no Congressional remedy to offset that. That, and they'd get additional electoral college votes. Those are the dealbreakers."

Because allowing more people to have voting power is a huge spoiler in this country, of course.

Personally, I'd totally dig it if I were to see the formation of a new state during my lifetime, saying this as someone who is young enough that his parents were born after the 49th and 50th states admitted to the Union.

Don't worry. I'll get off your lawns now, people.

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