Territory May Play Wildcard In 2012 Election
Territory May Play Wildcard In 2012 Election, Residents here are considered U.S. citizens, but they won’t get to vote for president. Puerto Rico statehood vote could be an election day wildcard, Today marks the anniversary of the last state to join the union, as Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959. But in three months, Puerto Rico faces a similar vote to become the 51st state.
And as of now, the results of its complicated statehood vote on November 6 are certainly up in the air.
Hawaii and Alaska (the 49th state) navigated a lot of political roadblocks to become states in the 1950s, since each state brought a pair of senators and a House member to Congress.
The Constitution is vague about the whole process of how a territory becomes a state, delegating the task to Congress.
In Article IV, Section 3, Congress is given the power to decide what states and territories are, but state legislatures would have to approve any act that would combine two existing states or form a new state from parts of other states. (So reuniting Pennsylvania and New Jersey, or Virginia, and West Virginia would be a very difficult task.)
And because any state automatically gets two U.S. senators and at least one member in the House of Representatives, statehood becomes even trickier if the balance of power is close in Congress.
Alaska faced a decade-long battle with Congress to become the 49th state that ended in January 1959. Its voters had first passed a statehood referendum in 1946, but they lobbied for another decade with Congress to get their request for statehood approved.
Hawaii helped and also complicated the approval process for Alaska, but a congressional compromise was brokered. After a vote in Hawaii and a separate act approving Hawaiian statehood, it became the 50th state on August 21, 1959.
And now, there is the issue of statehood for Puerto Rico. The island is a U.S. territory and its residents are U.S. citizens, but they don’t have voting congressional representation.