SAN JUAN — A majority of Puerto Ricans Tuesday voted for the first time to seek becoming the 51st US state in what jubilant members of the pro-statehood party call a resounding sign that the island territory is on the road to losing its second-class status.
Yet, the island remains bitterly divided over its relationship to the United States and many question the validity of this week’s referendum.
In addition, voters ousted the pro-statehood governor, eliminating a key advocate for a cause that would need the approval of the US Congress.
President Obama had said he would support the will of the Puerto Rican people on the question of the island’s relationship to the United States.
But the results aren’t so clear-cut. It was a two-part ballot that first asked all voters if they favor the current status as a territory. Regardless of the answer, all voters then got to choose in the second question from three options: statehood, independence or ‘‘sovereign free association,’’ which would grant more autonomy to the island of nearly 4 million people.
About 54 percent of the voters responded ‘no’ to the first question, saying they were not content with the current status; and 61 percent chose statehood — a bigger percentage, and the first majority, than in the previous three referendums on this issue over the past 45 years.
The certified results will be sent to the White House and the congressional leadership, and it will be up to them to begin the process of admitting Puerto Rico into the union.
Solving woes at the polls difficult with array of voting systems in US
WASHINGTON — Even as President Obama was about to give his victory speech early Wednesday, dozens of Florida voters waited in line to cast ballots more than five hours after the polls officially closed. Thousands of people in Virginia, Tennessee, and elsewhere also had to vote in overtime.
‘‘I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time,’’ Obama said. ‘‘By the way, we have to fix that.’’
Easier said than done.
There’s no single entity that sets the rules for voting in this country. Congress and the states enact overall election laws, but in most places it comes down to county or even city officials to actually run them. And those local systems are prone to problems.
There were examples in California of polls not opening on time because election workers overslept. In Ohio, Florida, and elsewhere, there weren’t enough voting machines to accommodate large crowds. In other places the devices malfunctioned or jammed.
At least 19 polling places in Hawaii ran out of paper ballots. In Pennsylvania, poll workers gave incorrect information to hundreds of voters about whether they needed photo identification (most didn’t).