Puerto Rico voted by a margin of 97 percent this weekend to become America’s 51st state. While the actual process of gaining statehood requires a number of steps, including Congressional approval, the referendum showed overwhelming support for the move, and is being interpreted by many as representing the will of the Puerto Rican people.
State Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) served on a bipartisan international delegation that observed Puerto Rico’s election. He says that despite criticism that less than a quarter of the island’s citizens showed up to the polls, he considers the election results valid, calling the volunteer poll workers “organized” and “disciplined.”
“From my observations, the election was fair and free and private, and open to the citizens of Puerto Rico,” Isaac says.
He says more voters turn out to elect officials to positions in government, and thus the percentage of voters participating in this weekend’s election was comparatively high.
“Typically when there’s people on the ballot, you’re going to have higher turnout, so I compared it to our last constitutional election where we had 11 percent, which was a significant increase from years prior,” Isaac says. “So my initial thought was 23 or 25 percent is a good number to give you a valid result in the election.”
He says that efforts by groups opposing the referendum may also account for low turnout.
“There are some talks of a group boycotting the election. It’s tough to win a battle if you don’t show up,” Isaac says.
Isaac says that he observed strict methods for combating voter fraud at Puerto Rican polling places, including photos of voters on both their registration cards and on the roll sheets used by poll workers. Puerto Rico also applies a clear gel to voters’ fingers that remains visible under a blacklight for a couple of days after voting.
Isaac says he also made surprising discoveries about the rights of Puerto Ricans.
“It was very educational for me, learning that we have many islanders that have served in our military,” he says. “And to find out that they couldn’t vote for our president was something that I didn’t know beforehand.”
Isaac says that while he wants to be fully informed before committing to a decision, he is leaning towards supporting the island’s quest for statehood.
“I want to observe it a little bit more, I want to learn a little bit more about the implications of becoming a state,” he says. “But initially, on the surface, yes, I would encourage our governor and the state of Texas to get behind supporting Puerto Rico becoming part of the United States.”
Written by Lila Weatherly.