Daily Archives: October 4, 2016

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Chasing the Puerto Rican Voter

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Puerto Ricans need to vote in order to make a political and demographic difference.

With barely a week to go until Florida voter registration closes on October 11, a number of  groups are chasing Puerto Rican voters in hopes of impacting the November elections.

The state’s 1 million Puerto Ricans are a tempting target because they are relative newcomers and they have no obstacle to 1 mil tagvoting since all are citizens. Let’s take a closer look at the Puerto Rican voter profile.

According to Pew Research Center, there are 2.6 million eligible Hispanic voters in Florida. Of that number, about 27 percent or 700,000 are Puerto Rican. (Another 806,000 are Cuban, the highest number.) The remainder are made up various Latino groups, including Mexican, Colombian, Venezuelan, Dominican and more.

About 27 percent of Florida’s eligible Hispanic voters are Puerto Rican.

The universe of Hispanic voters diminishes when active registered voters are factored in, that is, those who actually vote. In 2016, that number is about 1.8 million active Latino voters, according to Pew Research. For argument’s sake, let’s assume the ratio of eligible voters and active voters remains the same (which it may not),  that reduces active Puerto Rican voters to 486,000 , a difference of almost 300,000.

Not Just Voter Registration

A great deal of work remains to be done to get 700,000 eligible Puerto Rican voters to the polls – and it’s not just voter registration.

Local Democratic Party activist and numbers cruncher Doug Head published on Facebook some cool stats on actual Orange County voting patterns, including among Hispanics. (The figures are available on the Orange County Supervisor of Elections website, but Head saved me the trouble.)

Using Orange County as a barometer – it has the highest population of Puerto Ricans in the tri-county area – the figures show that Hispanic voter turnout was 59 percent in 2012, the last presidential election year.

The Latino turnout in Orange County was below that of non-Hispanic whites, African Americans and Asian Americans, whose rate was 72 percent, 71 percent and 64 percent, respectively.

Lower Hispanic Turnout

A 59 percent turnout is good …  still, it means that about 4 out of 10 Hispanic voters (40 percent) were no-shows at the polls. A good chunk of those were Puerto Ricans because the group comprises half of Orange County’s Hispanic population. And, again, Puerto Ricans have no barrier to voting. Which means that, among Hispanic voters, Puerto Ricans may make up more than 50 percent.

Will Hispanic-Puerto Rican turnout in Orange County equal or top 59 percent in 2016? Will voter drives light a fire under the 40 percent of Hispanic-Puerto Ricans who couldn’t be bothered to vote in 2012?

That’s the 1 million Puerto Rican question.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor