...in Puerto Rico. The fact that you probably didn't know that (no offence to anyone who did!) should perhaps cause us to question our assumption that any independence referendum is bound to attract considerable international interest. After all, Puerto Rico is only slightly smaller than Scotland. Having said that, today's vote follows on from a series of past referenda on the island that have always produced negligible support for outright independence. There's no reason to expect anything different this time round, so that perhaps explains the lack of excitement. The real interest will be whether the electorate opt for the status quo, for a free association agreement with the US, or to become the 51st state of the union.
Yes, you read that right. This is a multi-option constitutional referendum. The Scottish Liberal Democrats are understandably bemused - everyone knows that if you want constitutional change short of independence, the sure-fire way to get it is to insist that your preferred option is excluded from the ballot paper.
I must say that the status quo in Puerto Rico looks like the worst of all worlds - it gives the territory most of the bad things associated with being an integral part of the US, but without any of the voting rights. Statehood might do the US and the wider world a favour by moving Congress slightly to the left, and increasing the chances of a Democratic victory in presidential elections. It would also make the US a much more unambiguously bilingual nation. However, assuming independence isn't a realistic option, I think free association is what I'd be looking towards if I lived on the island. In a way it's strange that option has never really been floated for Scotland - perhaps that's because as a proud historic nation it's unthinkable for us to have the same constitutional status as the Marshall Islands. But the fact remains that free association is a rung on the ladder above Devo Max - we'd be sovereign, and outside the United Kingdom.
Another referendum taking place today will decide whether California should abolish the death penalty. I'm quite glad I'm not involved in that campaign, because the Yes side have made a tactical decision to abandon the moral arguments against capital punishment, and are instead advancing the 'fiscal conservative' case that life imprisonment without parole would be more cost-effective. They seem to be gaining some traction that way, but it must be hard to try to win a victory for a deeply-held moral principle by pretending you don't really care about that principle.
I was amused to see this defence of the death penalty on a forum the other day -
"We all have consciences to some degree HB....
The main difference here, is OUR consciences are activated by seeing a multiple murderer/child rapist be released, or escape from prison..
and do his horrible deed to yet another child....
yep, this drives my conscience absolutly NUTS.
While YOU'RE conscience activates over SAVING the pig knowing full well that they can escape, or be released....to do their dirty deed over & over.....
You sure you want to talk about a pro's conscience?"
So the main justification for capital punishment is that prisoners "might escape" if you don't kill them? Crikey, just how insecure are these American maximum-security prisons?