Puerto Rico votes overwhelmingly for statehood

Puerto Rico independence vote
The Caribbean island held a non-binding referendum over its future. Photo credit: Reuters

A non-binding referendum in Puerto Rico asking for the nation's future has had a very firm result: citizens want to become a proper part of the US.

Currently, Puerto Rico is a US-territory, but not officially a state. It means Puerto Ricans have US citizenship, but can't vote in presidential elections and have just one congressional representative, who has limited voting powers.

Residents pay social security, Medicare and local taxes, while Puerto Rico receives less federal funding than US states, but is exempt from the US federal income tax.

In the non-binding referendum, voters were asked to pick one of three options: statehood, independence or to remain as a US-territory.

According to preliminary results, almost half a million votes were cast for statehood, with just 7600 for independence and 6700 to stay the same.

It was a turn-out of around 23 percent and the vote was boycotted by several parties, raising questions about the validity of the vote.

But those who did vote were looking into the future.

"Statehood will solve some problems but we, as a nation, have to... assume responsibility and make decisions, and as we say in our own Puerto Rican way, we need to get our hands in there," resident Jose Alvarez told the Associated Press.

"If we don't do this, we will have a problem. And that problem will be that we will continue to go in circles without reaching a solution to those problems we have on the day-to-day."

The final decision lies in the hands of the US congress.