In a landslide vote Sunday, Puerto Rican voters approved a referendum that stated the Caribbean territory ought to request statehood.
The Wall Street Journal reported that 97 percent of voters who went to the polls said the island should become the nation’s 51st state. However, there was historically-low turnout for the vote; only 23 percent of registered voters cast a ballot amid a boycott from two out of three of Puerto Rico’s major political parties, which could hinder efforts for Washington to recognize Puerto Rico as a state.
“An overwhelming majority voted for statehood. Today we are sending a strong and clear message for equal rights as American citizens,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said, according to NBC News. “This was a democratic process and statehood got a historic 97 percent of the vote.”
However, Héctor Ferrer of the Popular Democratic Party — which supported the boycott — said that “statehood-ers shot themselves in the foot.”
“Eight out of 10 voters went to the beach, went to the river, went to go eat, went to go hang out, went to church, but they sure didn’t go out to vote,” Ferrer said at a press conference in San Juan. “Gov. Rosselló is now going to go to Washington and say this (statehood) is what people wanted. But we’re going too to say no, that’s not true and the numbers speak for themselves.”
The next step would be for the governor to put into what’s known as the “Tennessee Plan,” which is one method by which territories can lobby to become states. The governor will select two senators and five congressmen to travel to Washington to persuade the government to recognize it as the 51st state.