White House spokesperson Jay Carney was asked today whether President Barack Obama intends to support a push for Puerto Rican statehood following plebiscite results in the island. Carney explained that the administration did not feel the plebiscite’s results were clear.
“This administration, as you know, is committed to the principle that the question of political status is a matter of self-determination for the people of Puerto Rico,” said Carney. He explained the results show Puerto Ricans do want a resolution to the status issue — about 54 percent of Puerto Ricans voted for a status change — but “I think the outcome was a little less clear than that because of the process itself,” Carney said.
Carney is referring to the way the referendum was conducted. The non-binding November 6th plebiscite had two questions. The first one, asking voters whether they wanted a status change, was answered affirmatively by more than half the voters. But the second question, which listed what status option voters preferred, left out the current island’s status, which is the commonwealth status. So almost a quarter of the electorate — 480 thousand Puerto Ricans — left the second question blank.
Among those voters who answered the second question, 45 percent chose statehood, the option that got the largest number of votes. The other two options were independence or freely-associated sovereign state.
The White House spokesperson did say that Congress should study the results and offer Puerto Ricans “a path forward.” In the meantime, Puerto Rican voters have been in the news following their growing numbers in areas such as central Florida, where they were heavily courted by both parties, though the majority voted for Obama. Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917. While island Puerto Ricans cannot vote for president, those who live in the mainland can and do.