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The Florida Roundup
The Florida Roundup is a live, weekly call-in show with a distinct focus on the issues affecting Floridians. Each Friday at noon, listeners can engage in the conversation with journalists, newsmakers and other Floridians about change, policy and the future of our lives in the sunshine state.Join our hosts, veteran journalists from our partner public radio stations: WLRN’s Tom Hudson, broadcasting from Miami and WJCT’s Melissa Ross, broadcasting from Jacksonville.

Presidential Campaigns Court Florida’s Diverse Latino Voters

People lined up at voting booths.
Florida’s Latino population consists of several groups from various countries in the Caribbean and Latin America including Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Venezulans, Nicaraguans, and Colombians.

The Trump and Biden campaigns are taking their messages to Florida Latinos — a widespread group living throughout the state.

New polling shows the presidential race tightening in Florida, including among Latino voters. Florida’s Latino/Hispanic vote is a diverse and critical voting bloc for the candidates that could swing the election.

President Trump leads among likely Cuban-American voters in Florida — a traditional source of support for Republicans. Several voter surveys have found former Vice President Biden leading among registered Hispanic voters, but by less of a margin than Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Local journalists are working hard to keep you informed on the latest developments across South Florida. Please support this vital work. Become a WLRN member today. Thank you.

Florida’s Latino population consists of several groups from various countries in the Caribbean and Latin America including Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Venezulans, Nicaraguans, and Colombians. The cultural and socio-economic background of each group influences its policy priorities and voting trends.

In Florida, the margin of victory for either candidate could come down to a handful of votes.

On the Florida Roundup, Yanidsi Vélez, Florida director of the Hispanic Federation, joined hosts Tom Hudson and Melissa Ross.

Here’s an excerpt from the conversation:

MELISSA ROSS: You've been involved in increasing Latino voter registration in Florida. How do you assess these two campaigns — the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign — in their efforts to reach out to voters across the state?

YANIDSI VÉLEZ: We are a nonpartisan organization in everything that we have been doing from that standpoint. But it is interesting, as you are beginning to discuss. Our Latino community is not a monolithic bloc of voters. It's very diverse in cultures, very different between faith and politics values. And we know that to be true, that each campaign needs to make amendments with the Latino community in terms of how they are considered their voice, our voice, as part of their issue-based platform.

And part of that is how they approach the Latino vote. Courting the Latino vote is not a one-stop shop. The concerns to the Puerto Rican community that can vastly differ from the business community, Mexican, Colombian, and many others. So it does it turns to the messaging that they will use to have a connection with the Latino community. Most of those messages are around issues.

TOM HUDSON: So what are the messages that you're seeing that your group — your nonpartisan group, Hispanic Federation — are experiencing when it comes to the outreach from the major top of the ticket? President Trump and former Vice President Biden, particularly as they're reaching into Florida and trying to attract those types of voters — Cuban-Americans in South Florida, Puerto Ricans in central Florida, Colombian Americans, Venezuelan Americans across the state. What are the changes? What are the complexities of those messages?

VÉLEZ: There are issues around environmental concerns and also for the Puerto Rican community. In particular, the reaction and the betterment of the island. There are a lot of Puerto Ricans here. They came here after Hurricane Maria and they have settled here, but they still have families and relatives on the island. I am really being challenged every single day because of that neglect unless, you know, for better or worse, really not having the resources that the island needed in a prompt time to act upon. So there are different types of messaging, but also we need to see it on their perspectives on this pandemic. The pandemic has created a health and economic crisis in the Latino community.

We are also in the middle of the hurricane season in Florida, as you know. So we have been overwhelmed — we've seen the Puerto Ricans and many others, communities, that has been settled here for three years — but still they are confronting the challenges and economic challenges. So there is a variety of messaging, but most of the messaging is around economic empowerment, where there is job loss or better jobs or increasing salaries — also, affordable housing, affordable health care, and higher education.

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