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Puerto Rico votes for statehood but Congress looks unlikely to agree

A narrow majority of Puerto Ricans have voted once again to seek statehood, but their wish is hardly guaranteed to come true in the foreseeable future.

It will be up to Congress and the president to follow through and negotiate the terms of a switch for the island, which has essentially become the world's oldest colony during a dozen decades as a second-class territory of the United States. Proponents say changing that would erase a big blemish on the global reputation of American democracy.

Because the Senate looks increasingly likely to remain under Republcian control, though, prospects for a statehood bill next year look very dim no matter who is president. President Trump is no fan of the idea, believing it would mean more Democrats in Congress. And former Vice President Joe Biden would lack sufficient Democratic support on Capitol Hill to push through statehood for either Puerto Rico or much bluer Washington, D.C.

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Joe Biden unveiled a full slate of political reforms early in the campaign but has spent minimal time talking about these issues in recent months.

While you wait: What a Democratic sweep would mean for democracy reform

American democracy has taken a beating over the last four years, but Election Day may set the table for historic reforms.

The severe stress test for democratic norms can be counted on to further intensify if President Trump gets re-elected. Continuation of a divided Congress would likely perpetuate gridlock on most policy fronts. But should Joe Biden win the White House, and the Senate turn Democratic as well, the new president would take office with an ambitious stack of ready-to-go democracy reform bills on his desk — all of them strongly backed by Democrats newly in control of the entire Capitol.

And those sweeping overhauls of the laws governing campaign financing, voting rights, gerrymandering, executive branch ethics, the courts and even the inner workings of Congress would all be both on the table and viable. The question would be how high they would be on a Biden priority list and how much political capital he and his congressional allies would be willing to spend to get them done.

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The last such referendum, in 2017, went overwhelmingly for statehood -- but opponents boycotted the contest.

Puerto Ricans will vote this fall to seek statehood or independence

Puerto Rico will vote on whether to seek statehood or independence in November, the latest ballot measure posing a fundamental question about the future of American democracy.

The outcome of the referendum will compel the island's government to negotiate with Washington the details of one of those options for ending a system in place for 70 years: Puerto Ricans are American citizens who are exempt from federal income taxes and have significant local autonomy, but in return they get much less federal aid than the states and have no electoral votes or voting members of Congress.

The referendum is ultimately non-binding because Congress and the president would have to agree to end Puerto Rico's current commonwealth arrangement. But the result will still send a signal about the desires of Americans now lacking full democratic rights – and could intensify or deflate momentum for statehood in Washington, D.C.

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Spanish ballots mandated for much of Florida

Voters in almost half of Florida must have access to Spanish-language ballots in time for the 2020 presidential primary next March, a federal judge has ruled.

District Judge Mark Walker on Friday ordered state election officials to offer election materials and assistance to the growing Spanish-speaking population in the nation's most populous politically competitive state. In a close contest at a critical juncture in the primary Democratic season, a bigger turnout by Latinos (who find their access to the ballot box has been made easier) could prove decisive in propelling one candidate toward the nomination.

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