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How do new states become part of the U.S.?

Puerto Rico would need to go through the same process as Alaska and Hawaii. 

Puerto Rico voted Sunday on a non-binding referendum to decide whether or not to make the island a new state in the U.S. Only 23 percent of Puerto Ricans voted, but 97 percent voted statehood.

However, just because the vote resulted in favor of becoming the 51st state, it doesn't mean the American flag gets a new star that easy.

So how does a state become a state?

The process of creating a new state is written in Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution which reads,

"New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."

"The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State."

A new state can't be created without the territory's consent, which is why Puerto Rico held a vote on the referendum. If the territory votes in favor of statehood, the next step is to petition Congress for admission into the Union. Typically, a territory sends representatives and two senators to push for statehood.

Congress has the power to admit a new state, but the president has to sign the territory into statehood to make it official.

In the case of Puerto Rico, it may be hard to convince Congress to grant statehood since the vote had such a low turnout. Additionally, making Puerto Rico the 51st state would mean the territory would be granted federal money, which it currently doesn't receive. Critics say, the island is would benefit from the aid after declaring bankruptcy last month while dragging the U.S. economy down and it would also add another blue state to the Union.

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