The Corner

Rigging an Election in Puerto Rico

I have to profoundly disagree with Alex Castellanos and agree with Ramesh Ponnuru on the Puerto Rico plebiscite bill. I have been working in elections for two decades, and there is no question in my mind that H.R. 2499, the Puerto Rico Democracy Act scheduled for a vote tomorrow in the House, is rigged to foist an unwanted and unsolicited 51st state on Americans.

Contrary to Castellanos’ claim, there is nothing “vague” about Puerto Rico’s current political status. And he fails to mention that Puerto Ricans have rejected statehood in three prior referenda. Why is another one needed? Yet this bill would force another vote — and if Puerto Ricans reject statehood again, the Puerto Rican government (which is controlled by the rabidly pro-statehood New Progressive Party) would be authorized to conduct additional plebiscites every eight years, forever — in other words, until they finally get the results they want. There would only be two choices in the first new plebiscite: continuation of the status quo or “a different political status.” If the “different political status” choice wins, then a second plebiscite will be held in which the only choices will be statehood, independence, or “Sovereignty in Association with the United States,” whatever that is supposed to mean.

As Ramesh notes, no majority is required to win this second vote, just a plurality. So Puerto Ricans could be forced into statehood (or independence) even if only a minority of voters are in favor of it. And the vote is further rigged by specifying that anyone born in Puerto Rico will be able to vote — even if they are not residents. There are more expatriate Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. than there are in Puerto Rico. According to ProEnglish, the cost of additional federal benefits and entitlements to Puerto Ricans if the island becomes a state would be more than $7 billion a year.

Robert DePosada, a senior adviser to the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, says that if the NPP gets what it wants in the plebiscites, it will then elect senators and congressmen and send them to Washington to “demand” their seats the same way Tennessee did in 1796 (this is in the party’s platform). The party’s leader and former island governor has said that members of Congress will then be forced to support statehood to “avoid being accused of bigotry against Hispanics.” So the plan is to rig an election and then extort approval from Congress of Puerto Rico as the 51st state.

Ordinary citizens have already been hit in the past year with an unconstitutional takeover by the federal government of our health-care system. Americans have watched with growing frustration and anger as the president and his party have exponentially grown the government, the federal budget, and the country’s debt in a completely unsustainable manner with seemingly no concern over the future economic wellbeing of the country. Now those same citizens are faced with a manipulative bill that political observers will recognize as designed to create millions of new votes at a time when certain political actors fear their election prospects are diminishing. This is nothing more than a transparent attempt to rig election rules to favor the outcome they want.

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