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.
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.
BEFORE YOU GO
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more informationTrack ballot status
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Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
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