In addition to voting for their government representatives on Nov. 6, Americans around the country also got to vote on a series of referendums and ballot initiatives, from legalizing gay marriage to reforming California’s “three strikes” penal code to decriminalizing marijuana in Colorado. But in Puerto Rico, residents voting for governor also got to express their opinion on the island’s status as a U.S. territory. Fifty four percent of voters said they were unhappy with the status quo, and of the 1.3 million voters who answered the question about what options they’d prefer — statehood, sovereign free association or independence — 61 percent said they’d like to become America’s 51st state.
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While Puerto Ricans have before expressed support for changing their governing status, the November referendum was the first where a majority voted for U.S. statehood. At the moment, Puerto Rico is a self-governing U.S. territory whose residents are U.S. citizens. They can serve in the military and elect a non-voting Congressional representative. Statehood would seem to make sense, as there are now nearly a million more Puerto Ricans in the U.S. than on the island. The poll is not binding, however, and it’s unlikely that Puerto Rico will become a state anytime soon. In order to become a state, Congress would have to pass a statute admitting it; the last time that happened with Hawaii in 1959, more than 90 percent of Hawaiians supported the move. Still, that hasn’t stopped some enterprising folks from designing options for a U.S. flag with 51 stars.