Democrats and Republicans are vying for the unpredictable Hispanic swing vote in the neck-and-neck gubernatorial and senatorial races in Florida. Puerto Rican voters are a key voting group in this influential swing state, and much has already been written about the fastest growing Hispanic population in Florida.
Before Hurricane Maria, Florida had about 1.1 million Puerto Rican residents, and experts estimated that approximately 500,000 were registered to vote. Today, estimates for the number of Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida after the storm have hit as high as 280,000.
Uniquely, while they do not have a vote when residing on the island, Puerto Ricans are able to register to vote immediately upon arriving to the mainland because they are already American citizens. Many Puerto Ricans now living in Florida will have the opportunity to cast a vote for the issues that matter to them, including the ever-present issue of statehood for Puerto Rico.
Puerto Ricans have voted in favor of statehood twice in the past decade. And a 2017 poll found that 85 percent of Puerto Ricans living along Florida’s I-4 corridor viewed Puerto Rico’s status resolution as a top priority.
Due to their vocal support for Puerto Rico statehood, Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis — GOP candidates for U.S. Senate and governor, respectively — may have an edge with this important constituency. Their stance is in line with nearly every Republican Party platform since 1940, which have supported Puerto Rico’s right to choose statehood. And the 2016 Republican Party platform is no different. It states:
“Congress should approve an enabling act with terms for Puerto Rico’s future admission as the 51st state of the Union.”