Puerto Rico voted overwhelmingly in favor of statehood on Sunday in a referendum that begins the steps toward sending representatives to Washington, D.C.
According to The Wall Street Journal, 97 percent of voters chose statehood, though turnout was only about 23 percent. One-and-a-half percent voted for independence from the United States, according to Decision Desk HQ, while 1.3 percent voted to keep the current status of a territory of the United States.
Puerto Rico will now put its “Tennessee plan” into action, meaning its governor will choose two senators and five representatives to go to Washington, D.C., to request statehood.
President Trump signaled during his presidential campaign that he is open to Puerto Rico officially becoming a state.
Only Congress can make Puerto Rico a state, and there’s little appetite to do that right now. Congress is a lot more concerned about the island’s massive bankruptcy. President Trump has made it clear that he will not bail the island out.
Becoming a state would give Puerto Rico more say in Congress and more money for the U.S. government. The island is currently under the thumb of a Fiscal Oversight Board installed by Congress. One of the biggest complains on the island is that it receives a lot less money for programs like Medicaid than it would if it were a state.
Statehood would also make a lot of stuff cheaper on the island. Cars, for example, cost about 40% more in Puerto Rico than on the U.S. mainland. That’s because of an old rule called the Jones Act that forces goods to go the mainland first and then be shipped only on a U.S. vessel to Puerto Rico. That’s a lot more expensive than sending something from China directly to the island.
“New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”