The Puerto Rican voter has arrived in Florida. It’s not too early to declare it so.
The national and international media have come around to the fact that Puerto Ricans in Florida likely hold the key to the 2016 elections. Serious Pac money is being invested in the Central Florida Puerto Rican voter this election cycle.
As a journalist who has spent nearly 20 years in Orlando reporting, writing and documenting the comings and goings of Puerto Ricans, I’ve never seen anything like it.
Florida is a politically fluid state in large measure because more and more Puerto Ricans are choosing the state as their home. The Puerto Rican population jumped 100 percent since 2000, according to census reports, and they are concentrated in Central Florida, the political swing part of the state. Central Florida is the swing part of the state because Puerto Ricans can be swing voters. It’s fair to say that one doesn’t exist without the other.
Puerto Ricans put the purple into Florida.
They are providing an important counterweight to the heavy Cuban-Republican vote in South Florida. However, even that is changing as more recent immigrants and younger Cubans break away from the political traditions of an older exile generation.
In the last month, reporters from the United Kingdom, Iceland and Montreal, Canada – to name a few – have touched down in Central Florida to profile specifically the Puerto Rican voter. That would not have happened earlier.
Years ago, journalists visited Central Florida – if they visited at all – to ask about Cuban voters, indicating they didn’t know what was happening here. They had not done their homework. They didn’t understand that census data show that Puerto Ricans make up half of the Orlando area’s Hispanic population.
Word Is Out
That’s over. Word has gotten out.
Puerto Ricans are here in very large numbers – over 1 million in Florida, a state that will soon surpass New York in Puerto Rican population. That is saying a lot, considering that New York for decades has been the historical stateside center of Puerto Rican people.
As significantly, only four percentage points separate the ratio of Cuban to Puerto Rican voters among Hispanic voters – 31 percent to 27 percent, according to Pew Research.
If this were a poll, the difference would fall within the margin of error.
In fact, Osceola County, the heart of the Puerto Rican community, now has more Hispanic registered voters than non-Hispanic white voters, according to data from the Osceola County Supervisor of Elections and as Orlando Latino reported earlier.
84 Percent Expect to Vote
In a Center for American Progress Action Fund poll of Puerto Ricans released this month – a rare poll to focus exclusively on Puerto Ricans in Florida – about 84 percent said they “definitely” planned to vote in the election, a number that approximates voter turnout in Puerto Rico but which thus far has eluded Florida.
The Center for American Progress Action is a progressive-leaning organization that has taken a keen interest in the Puerto Rican voter. It is plunking down serious funding into a number of local initiatives, including the Que Vote Mi Gente voter mobilization effort.
Other projects are underway in the two weeks left to the November 8 elections. But more about that later.
Today, it suffices to say the Puerto Rican voter has arrived in Florida. Finally.