Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Puerto Ricans Vote in Vital Elections (Updated)

All eyes have been placed on the U.S. presidential election that is projected to be won by incumbent Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.  Off the mainland, however, Puerto Ricans participate in a pair of crucial votes on Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of boricuas voted in a two-part plebiscite to help decide the political status of the island.  The first part of the referendum asked voters if they prefer the island’s political status as a commonwealth.  The second part of the plebiscite allowed voters to chose what type of political status they would like for Puerto Rico:  become the fifty-first U.S. state, become an independent country or remain as a commonwealth? (The island has been a commonwealth since the U.S. took control of the territory in 1898).

The results of the plebiscite are reportedly too close to call with exit polls indicating a 48%-48% tie over the first question on the island’s “status quo”.  Preliminary results for the second part of the plebiscite have indicated 50% for statehood, 32% for “enhanced commonwealth status” and 4% for independence. 

The referendum is non-binding and details of the island’s upcoming political status would have to be agreed upon by the governments of the U.S. and Puerto Rico.  The role of Puerto Rican governor thus gains more importance yet it’s unknown who will hold that seat for those critical negotiations.

The future of Gov. Luis Fortuño, who is representing the pro-statehood party, is in the balance with results of the gubernatorial election far too close to call.  With half of the votes tabulated in a recount Fortuño is behind by less than 1.0% to pro-commonwealth candidate Alejandro García Padilla.

Obama has said that he would “respect the people's will if there is a clear majority”.   The negotiations over Puerto Rico’s future political status could be made easier if Padilla wins his race since the political party he’s with is allied with the Democrats.

Update below the page break:

Update (3:00 AM): According to Puerto Rico's electoral board Alejandro Garcia Padilla leads Gov. Luis Fortuño by 0.65% with roughly 90% of the votes counted.

Regarding the plebiscite, 53.87% of voters rejected the island's "status quo" commonwealth status and a clear majority prefer Puerto Rican statehood over independence or commonwealth.       

Video Source– YouTube via user Alun Hill

Online Sources – Orlando Sentinel,, BBC News, Huffington Post

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