Is Puerto Rico on Its Way To Becoming the 51st State?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 7 2012 12:15 PM

Is Puerto Rico on Its Way To Becoming the 51st State? Possibly.

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Carlos Mendez of the Puerto Rico delegation watches the program during the third day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 29, 2012 in Tampa, Florida

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Looks like Puerto Rico just voted in favor of statehood. But don't start trying to fit a 51st star onto the U.S. flag just yet—the next steps aren't quite that clear cut.

The U.S. territory's two-part, non-binding referendum vote on Tuesday showed a majority of Puerto Ricans supporting a change in national status, and a majority support for statehood.

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With 96 percent of precincts reporting, just under 54 percent of voters favored a change, according to the Associated Press. The second referendum question offered a choice between three possible status changes: statehood, which took 61 percent of the vote; Sovereign free association, with 33 percent; and just 5 percent support for independence.

Congress would have to approve a Puerto Rican bid for statehood, something that President Obama has said he'd respect in the event of a clear majority decision. But it's still not clear if the White House will consider the majority votes from Tuesday enough to take up the issue.

To complicate matters, the pro-statehood Gov. Luis Fortuno conceded defeat on Wednesday in a close race against Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who supports the island's current national status, according to the AP.

Currently, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and use U.S. currency and passports. But they have limited representation in government, and can't vote in presidential elections.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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