This week’s vote on Puerto Rico’s status, in which the largest share of votes supported statehood, got a lot of people wondering whether the island territory may become the 51st state.
But don’t hold your breath -- it isn’t likely to happen.
With just 46 percent of the ballots cast, statehood doesn't have the support of the majority of the Puerto Rican electorate.
Puerto Rican voters not only didn't support statehood, they narrowly voted to oust one of the biggest proponents of statehood from the governorship. With Alejandro Garcia Padilla of the Popular Democratic Party taking office, the idea will likely lose steam.
"The status of Puerto Rico should be decided by the residents of Puerto Rico," Obama said last year. "If the plebiscite, or the referendum, that takes place in Puerto Rico indicates that there is a strong preference from the majority of the Puerto Rican people, I think that will influence how Congress approaches any actions that might be taken to address status issues." That's not the way the vote went down.
Many Puerto Ricans who favor statehood already live in U.S. states. Puerto Ricans received citizenship, along with military conscription, in 1917. Today, some 4.6 million people of Puerto Rican origin live in the United States, compared to 3.7 million on the island, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. In the words of historian Angel Collado-Schwartz, “Statehood is available to all Puerto Ricans -- you have 50 states to move to.”
Congressional aides tell The Hill that Congress won't both with legislation to initiate the process to bring Puerto Rico into the union as a state because the vote wasn't convincing enough. One staffer viewed the status vote as a "statistical fiction."
The United States first colonized Puerto Rico in 1898. Since then, Puerto Ricans have voted several times on whether to become a state or not, but the idea has never become popular enough to sway a majority of voters.
When statehood received the largest share of votes on Tuesday’s two-part status referendum, it led several U.S. outlets to report that a majority of Puerto Ricans had finally opted for statehood.
It’s a misleading impression. The referendum consisted of two questions. First, it asked voters if they wanted to keep their current U.S. commonwealth status. Dissatisfaction emerged victorious with 52 percent of the vote. The referendum then asked if voters wanted to become a U.S. state, an independent country, or a freely associated state -- a type of independence in close alliance with the United States. Some 61 percent of those who answered the second question chose statehood.
That 61 percent wasn’t the majority, however. Over 470,000 voters intentionally left the second question blank, meaning that only 45 percent of those casting ballots supported statehood.
“The media in the United States have really taken it the other way, that statehood won, and that’s not true,” historian Angel Collado-Schwartz told the Huffington Post.
Even without a majority, Puerto Rico is forwarding the results to Congress and the White House, which will decide whether to launch the process of turning Puerto Rico into to the 51st state in the union.
Check out our five reasons why this probably won’t happen in the gallery above.