Puerto Rico the 51st State?

November 8, 2012 Updated Nov 8, 2012 at 8:07 PM EDT

By Ed Reilly

November 8, 2012 Updated Nov 8, 2012 at 8:07 PM EDT

(WKBW) It was an election night result that was overshadowed by the presidential race, but for the very first time, Puerto Rican island residents have said they are interested in becoming the 51st state.

By a margin of 54% to 46%, voters rejected their current status as a US commonwealth.

In a separate question, 61% chose statehood as the preferable alternative.

The referendum is non-binding and it will now go to Congress for consideration.

"I don't think it will be an easy task," says Buffalo businessman Lou Santiago, who was born in Puerto Rico.

"Do the mainland citizens want to bring into its fold a country that is not English speaking? I think it is good to raise the conversation by way of education to a population that clumps the non-english speaking crowd all into one bucket"

The four million residents living in Puerto Rico are considered American citizens, but that is often misunderstood by mainland residents.

They are subject to US laws and exempt from some federal taxes, but are not allowed to vote for a president.

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