Puerto Rico Statehood: Residents Vote Support For Becoming 51st State

Puerto Ricans weren't allowed to vote in the 2012 presidential election, but they did vote to move toward being able to make their voices hear in 2016.

Puerto Rico is presently defined as a U.S. territory, meaning the people who live there are citizens of the United States, but they cannot vote in presidential elections and their congressional representative has limited powers.

But that could change in the near future, as a majority of Puerto Rican voters who went to the polls on Election Day supported a measure to move toward becoming the 51st state in the union.

The Associated Press reported that the measure for statehood got support from approximately 54 percent Puerto Rican voters, which amounts to 922,374 people. A total of 786,749 voters, or 46 percent, voted against changing Puerto Rico's relationship with the United States.

Those totals could still change slightly, as only about 96 percent of Puerto Rico's precincts had reported results as of Wednesday morning, but any additional votes will not change the result.

Another question on the Puerto Rican ballot asked voters to define how they would specifically want their government to be structured. Statehood in the United States was the overwhelming favorite, garnering 61 percent of the vote. About 33 percent of Puerto Ricans voted for sovereign free association, which would allow more autonomy in governing than becoming the 51st state, and only about 5 percent of voters supported complete independence.

The next step for Puerto Rico will be in the hands of the U.S. government. President Barack Obama, who pulled out a decisive victory in his bid for a second term, had previously stated he supported the referendum for statehood and would respect the wishes of Puerto Rican voters. It is still uncertain whether the Congress will debate the measure or if it will move toward implementation based solely on Tuesday's vote.

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