Puerto Rico Wants To Be 51st State, Governor Says

Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla has announced that the U.S. territory has overwhelmingly chosen statehood in a referendum Sunday. 

Nearly half a million votes were cast for statehood, more than 7,600 for free association/independence and nearly 6,700 for independence, according to preliminary results. 

The participation rate was just 23 percent with roughly 2.26 million registered voters, leading opponents to question the validity of a vote that several parties had boycotted. Sources say it was the lowest level of participation in any election in Puerto Rico since 1967.

Those supporting statehood have been hit with new taxes and higher utility bills on an island where food is 22 percent more expensive and public services are 64 percent more expensive than on U.S. mainland.

Those who oppose statehood worry the island will lose its cultural identity and warn that Puerto Rico will struggle even more financially because it will be forced to pay millions in federal taxes.

The U.S. Congress has final say in any changes to the island's political status.

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