January 4, 2012
Phone: (404) 226-3549
By Robert Vandervoort, Executive Director
On December 29, 2011, Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno signed into law a rigged and confusing two-part referendum to determine voter preference on the Spanish-speaking island’s political status. The first part of the ballot asks voters if they want a change in political status or prefer to remain a U.S. commonwealth. The second part asks voters to choose from three options, excluding the current Commonwealth option: 1) statehood, 2) independence or 3) sovereign free association.
Fortuno signed the bill which requires both rounds of voting to be held on the same day – Election Day, November 6, 2012. Holding both parts of the referendum on the same day makes no sense. It dishonestly assumes that the commonwealth preference won’t win and that a second round of voting is necessary. Since all these questions are on the same ballot, being forced to choose from the three options on the second part of the ballot will influence how people vote in the first part.
Fortuno and his pro-statehood party, the New Progressive Party which controls Puerto Rico’s legislature, rigged this referendum legislation to try to produce a majority vote in favor of statehood— while trampling on the wishes of Puerto Ricans who want to maintain the current U.S. commonwealth status or who prefer full independence.
Even though this vote is non-binding, the governor’s pro-statehood party plans to use a victory in the second round to send its lobbyists to Washington, D.C. to force its wishes on Congress— hoping the resulting publicity and political pressure will build momentum for congressional approval of statehood.
In this context, we applaud U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., and other members of Congress of both parties who support a requirement that all new states must adopt English as the official language of government operations and in the schools. Fortuno opposes this, even though polls consistently reveal that 9 out of 10 of Americans want English to be the official language of government operations and 31 states have adopted laws to that effect. Historically, non-English speaking territories seeking U.S. statehood, like Arizona, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico for example, were required by Congress to make English language policy changes as a prerequisite for statehood.