We can speculate that some voters left the second question blank because they prefer the current status to its alternatives. Those voters were able to vote for the current status in the first question, so their viewpoint was reflected in the results. Others may have declined to answer because they thought another option should have been on the ballot—a best-of-all-worlds proposal promoted by the ex-governor’s party called “Enhanced Commonwealth.” But the last four presidential administrations have rejected this proposal, as have all key congressional leaders. A blank vote to protest the exclusion of an impossible proposal is entitled to no weight.
In a statement earlier this week, a White House spokesman said: “[T]he results were clear, the people of Puerto Rico want the issue of status resolved, and a majority chose statehood in the second question. Now it is time for Congress to act and the Administration will work with them on that effort, so that the people of Puerto Rico can determine their own future.”
The White House is right. The referendum shows a clear majority of Puerto Ricans want to end the Island’s undemocratic status, and that more voters favor statehood than any other status option. Now the federal government should respond in a timely and appropriate fashion.
Pedro R. Pierluisi, a Democrat, is Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in the U.S. House of Representatives.