Puerto Ricans vote for statehood in controversial referendum

Posted: Updated:
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -

Ninety-seven percent of voters in Puerto Rico approved a measure Sunday to try and become the 51st state, but the results come from a disputed referendum that saw only 23 percent of eligible voters turn out.

Maria Scharron Del Rio, a professor at Brooklyn College, spoke with News 12 from Puerto Rico.

She says a normal election there sees between 60 and 80 percent of eligible voters at the polls.

"Twenty-two to 23 percent turnout is ridiculous," she says. "Most people went to the beach, stayed at home or took to social media to express their discontent."

Del Rio says many Puerto Ricans saw the vote as just a show. 

"The majority of people were not involved," she says, adding that the ballots were crafted without input from opposition political parties.

Ultimately, the decision is up to Congress, but Puerto Rico's governor says he will push for lawmakers to accept the island's statehood.

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