Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced on Saturday that she will hold a nonbinding referendum to decide whether or not Puerto Rico should become a U.S. state. 

“Our people will have the opportunity once and for all to define our future,” Vázquez said. “It’s never too late to be treated as equals.”

The referendum, which will be held in November, will ask Puerto Ricans whether or not Puerto Rico should be immediately admitted as a U.S. state. This comes as dissatisfaction grows with the island’s status as a territory of the U.S.

If the majority answer ‘yes,’ the move for statehood would have to be approved by the U.S. Congress. 

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The referendum angered the island’s independence supporters and members of the Popular Democratic Party. Those who want statehood believe statehood would aid Puerto Rico, which has previously struggled to get federal funds for Hurricanes Irma and Maria, a string of recent strong earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everything important in life carries some risk,” said former Puerto Rico Gov. Carlos Romero Barceló.

Puerto RIcans are American citizens, bur cannot vote in U.S. presidential elections.  While the island is exempt from U.S. federal income tax, it still pays Social Security, Medicare and local taxes, and receives less federal funding than U.S. states. Puerto Ricans  

Congress has never acted on the island’s previous five referendums. In the last referendum held in 2017, half a million people favored statehood. However, the voter turnout was just 23 percent after boycotts raised questions about the vote’s legitimacy, 

If Puerto Rico becomes a state, it would get two senators and five representatives. It’s unlikely the Republican-Senate would acknowledge the referendum because Puerto Rico tends to be more liberal. However, Democrats could retake the chamber in November.

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