Florida is home to over 1.13 million Boricuas, 70% of whom tend to vote Democrat. This is why coming November, Boricuas who previously lived on the island but were unable to vote in elections and now live on the mainland, will play a very powerful and key role in Florida politics as they become registered and show up to the polls.
Florida, particularly Orlando, has become home to many Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria. This is mainly because many Puerto Ricans having existing family or friends already in Central Florida.
Institutions like the University of Central Florida (UCF), one of the largest cohorts of Puerto Ricans, has greatly assisted Puerto Rican students by extending in-state tuition for students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands until 2023. This will aid students seeking to pursue or continue their education without having to pay out of state tuition.
Jose Luis Rivera is a senior at UCF and the founder and former President of the Puerto Rican Student Association. He has been involved in political engagement and registering Puerto Ricans to vote.
“What we saw in the August elections was a bigger turnout in the Osceola and Orange county area, which is partly from more Puerto Ricans engaging in the political process and getting out to vote,” expressed Rivera.
Rivera is awaiting to see how Puerto Ricans will play a role in the November election; he is currently a Research Assistant for the Puerto Rican research hub at UCF.
“What we’re looking at in November is hopefully the same will happen and has an impact as well. In Puerto Rico, the voter turnout is very high, so we are looking at improving numbers here in Florida to get Puerto Ricans to vote,” Rivera added.
Democratic nominee for Governor Andrew Gillum has been endorsed by many elected Puerto Ricans, including U.S. Representative Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee; former Puerto Rican governor Alejandro García Padilla; U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez of New York; Florida Sen. Victor Torres, D-Kissimmee; Rep. Amy Mercado, D-Orlando; Osceola County Commissioner Viviana Janer; and Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla.
This is a direct response to the lack of leadership and solidarity from the Republican party in response to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which claimed nearly 3,000 lives, according to a study done by George Washington University.
The republican nominee for Governor Ron DeSantis has been endorsed by President Donald Trump and he is running on a similar campaign of divisiveness; even using Trump’s material in his commercial ad and proudly displaying the endorsement on his website.
Trump tends to be unfavorable among Puerto Ricans.
DeSantis has placed himself in very close proximity to Trump and his opinions on issues such as family separation and having previously said numerous racists comments, even against New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of Puerto Rican descent, calling her “this girl Ocasio-Cortez or whatever she is” in regards to her ethnicity.
State Representative of District 48, Amy Mercado who has family both in Florida and on the island has a message to the growing number of Puerto Rican voters in Florida.
“Your voice matters and it is important that you learn all you can about Florida’s electoral system. Your resilience, participation and strong presence will change many things in Florida,” explained Mercado.
It is difficult to find exact numbers, but as many as 500,000 are eligible to be registered to vote from 13 million that are already active voters.
San Juan Mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz endorsed Senator Nelson for re-election, a move that hopes to support the Puerto Rican community through legislation in November. She has been very vocal in speaking out against Trump in addition to elected officials for their lack of support and solidarity with the Puerto Rican people.
Following the tragic disaster that occured in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria which continues to directly affecting many people with lack of access to resources, we will see how the large Puerto Rican community who moved from the mainland to Florida will vote in November.