Puerto Ricans who live in Florida need to register to vote here, in order to have a say in the island’s future. That’s the message from the chair of the Puerto Rico Democratic Party as he tours Florida this week.
According to the Pew Research Center, Puerto Ricans make up about a third of eligible Hispanic voters in Florida. Thousands moved to the state following hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
But Charlie Rodriguez of the Puerto Rico Democratic Party says many haven’t updated their voter registration.
“Florida, statewide, elections are always a slim margin," he said. "So, this large number of Puerto Ricans who have moved to Florida would obviously make a difference.”
Rodriguez said turnout from Puerto Ricans in Florida will be key in 2020, as island leaders make another push for U.S. statehood. A major issue for Puerto Rican voters is access to Spanish-language ballots, which for many years were only available in a handful of Florida counties. Earlier this month, a federal judge ordered 32 counties to offer ballots in Spanish.
Rodriguez is also pushing to move Puerto Rico’s presidential primary from June to March. While Puerto Ricans who live on the island can’t vote in the general election, the commonwealth sends delegates to the Democratic and Republican national conventions. With a large and competitive field of Democrats, Rodriguez wants Puerto Rico to play a larger role in deciding the party's nominee.
Several candidates, including Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro, have already campaigned in Puerto Rico. Bernie Sanders named San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been outspoken in her criticism of the Trump Administration's response to the 2017 hurricanes, as his campaign co-chair.