There was much ado about the Latino vote in the midterm elections, particularly Puerto Ricans who migrated post Hurricane María. So how did that work out? The answers are beginning to eke out now that the elections have concluded and been certified.
Turnout among all voters was high – about 63 percent in Florida, up substantially from the 51 percent reported in the 2014 midterm elections. However, there wasn’t a lot of difference in how Latinos split their vote, compared with previous years.
Florida Latinos voted 44 percent for Republican Ron DeSantis versus 54 percent for Democrat Andrew Gillum. However, digging deeper, 66 percent of Cuban-Americans threw their support to DeSantis, while only 33 percent did so for Gillum, according to a RealClear Politics exit poll analysis.
Cubans-Americans have been splitting their vote between Republicans and Democrats, with younger voters trending blue. But older voters have higher turnout and among Cuban-Americans older voters are more reliably Republican.
A Daily Wire analysis indicates that 18 to 29-year-olds in general cast 6 percent of Florida ballots, although they make up 17 percent of the electorate, a significant underperformance. In addition, Cuban-Americans, with a longer and more active political trajectory in Florida, also have a higher voter turnout than Puerto Ricans, who are relative newcomers.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott something similar occurred. Latinos voted 54 percent for Nelson and 45 percent for Scott. Orlando Latino couldn’t find a breakdown by nationality, but it’s safe to assume a similar split of Cuban and Puerto Rican voters. That is, Cubans overwhelmingly backed Scott, while Puerto Ricans supported Nelson. But if Puerto Ricans didn’t vote in the numbers that were expected, the Cuban-American electorate provided the Republican winning edge.
The Cuban-American vote made the difference for Republicans in a year in which the Puerto Rican turnout appeared to be low, judging by the turnout in Osceola County, a Puerto Rican and Democratic stronghold. The Osceola Supervisor of Elections reported a 53 percent turnout, a solid nine points behind the state average. Puerto Ricans comprise 54 percent of Osceola’s Hispanics and 29 percent of the county’s total population.
It’s worth noting that Puerto Ricans look at voting through a rear view mirror, because even in Puerto Rico the voter turnout is falling, reaching 55.5 percent in the island’s 2016 gubernatorial elections. That is down significantly from the 80 percent or higher turnout for which Puerto Rico historically is known.
In Florida, when Puerto Ricans and Democrat-leaning millennials and other young voters show up at the polls in lower numbers, the Cuban-American vote is more prominent and, thus, the deciding election factor.
˜˜Maria T. Padilla