Puerto Rico votes in favor of statehood, its governor says

FILE - In this July 29, 2015 file photo, the Puerto Rican flag flies in front of Puerto Rico's Capitol as in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico's governor is pushing ahead with his top campaign promise of trying to convert the U.S. territory into a state, holding a Sunday June 11, 2017, referendum to let voters send a message to Congress. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo, File)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) – Puerto Rico’s governor says the U.S. territory has overwhelmingly chosen statehood in a non-binding referendum.

Ricardo Rossello said Sunday that the island has sent a strong and clear message to U.S. Congress and the world.

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Nearly half a million votes were cast for statehood, more than 7,600 for free association/independence and nearly 6,700 for independence. The participation rate was nearly 23 percent with roughly 2.26 million registered voters.

But many question the validity of the vote amid a low turnout and a boycott by several opposition parties.

U.S. Congress has final say on any changes to the U.S. territory’s political status, regardless of the referendum’s final outcome.

Three of Puerto Rico’s political parties were boycotting the referendum, including the island’s main opposition party.

The referendum coincides with the 100th anniversary of the U.S. granting U.S. citizenship to Puerto Ricans, who are barred from voting in presidential elections and have one congressional representative with limited voting powers.

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