Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory since 1898, voted in favor of statehood for the first time Tuesday, with 61 percent of the island's voters opting for inclusion as the 51st state in a non-binding referendum. Yet the same voters gave a narrow victory in the governor's race to Alejandro Garcia Padilla, whose Popular Democratic Party opposes statehood. Padilla appears to have edged out incumbent Luis Fortuno of the New Progressive Party by less than one percent of the vote.
In a two-part question, voters rejected, by 54 to 46 percent, continuation of their current commonwealth status. On the second question, 61 percent of the voters chose statehood as the alternative, with 33 percent opting for a semi-autonomous "sovereign free association" and only six percent in favor of complete independence. It was the first vote in favor of statehood, something island residents voted against in 1967, 1993, and 1998. A troubled economy and an exodus of residents from the island had a significant effect on the vote this time, Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock told Cable News Network.
"I think people just came to realize that the current relationship simply does not create the number of jobs that we need," McClintock said, noting that 58 percent of Puerto Ricans now live on the U.S. mainland. "When you have a political status that scares away half of your population, it is time to reject that political status," he said.
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