This weekend, the residents of Puerto Rico who bothered to vote overwhelmingly endorsed the proposition of statehood for Puerto Rico. Previous elections on the topic have been less decisive, and some opponents of statehood for Puerto Rico boycotted the polls this year. However, only the United States Congress can grant statehood to Puerto Rico. What would happen if Congress responded to this election by making Puerto Rico the 51st state in the Union?
- Puerto Rico would be the thirtieth state in population, just ahead of Iowa. It would have four or five Representatives in Congress, as well as two Senators. In presidential elections it would have six or seven electoral votes.
- Based on past voting records, one may assume that most of those officials would be Democrats rather than Republicans. Given this fact, the likelihood of Puerto Rico being offered statehood by the current session of Congress is small.
- Citizens of Puerto Rico would be required to pay federal income taxes, but they also would be eligible for additional federal assistance programs.
- The following fact would be altered: Puerto Rico is currently the only region in the world that is neither an independent country nor a fully functioning member (state, province, etc.) of an independent country having more than one million residents. Most such regions are either very small or are sparsely populated. (However, the relationship of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China is ambiguous.)
- Someone would have to design an arrangement of stars for the United States flag that contains 51 stars and is visually appealing.
- The residents of the District of Columbia would probably increase their pursuit of statehood. Again, they would be unlikely to succeed during the current session of Congress, based on past voting records.
- Consideration might be given to balance the four new Senators (likely Democratic) by creating two new states with Republican majorities. The easiest way to do this would be to divide Texas into three states, something which could not be done without the permission of the state of Texas. I consider this event to be extremely unlikely.
The voters of Puerto Rico have spoken. Whether or not the government of the United States answers them remains to be seen. J.