Clinton’s Florida Secret Weapon: New Puerto Rican Arrivals

by | Oct 31, 2016 | Bocaítos | Comments

Hillary Clinton’s success in Florida will likely be dependent upon her ability to get out the vote in Florida’s population of recently-arrived Puerto Ricans.

Last Tuesday afternoon, three Clinton canvassers stood outside Kissimmee Meat & Produce, looking to slow those entering and exiting just long enough to ask whether they were registered. The independently owned supermarket sits in Osceola County’s 410th precinct, where, according to a Clarity Campaign Labs analysis, 42 percent of the 246 voters who have registered since the 2014 elections are likely to be Puerto Rican. Not all are recent transplants from the island: some were raised in Florida and are just reaching voting age; others are retirees relocating from large Puerto Rican communities in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.

Not long ago, Democrats worried that the new arrivals would become a key swing bloc. These voters do not come with partisan loyalties—Puerto Rico’s two parties are not split on a left-right axis as much as by their support for statehood—so even people who are enthusiastic about voting can become paralyzed when prompted to check a box attached to a party name. Clinton has been vocal about her support for Puerto Rico’s right to vote on whether it should be a state—past polling suggests such a measure would pass comfortably—while Trump has signaled he is open to the possibility of statehood. “I realize some of them don’t recognize which candidate is Democratic and which is Republican,” says José Castellanos, who supervises a team of four canvassers for Mi Familia Vota. “As soon as I say a certain name, they react.”

The intensity of this election might be ideal for those looking to turn out the vote in this sector, possibly creating a new reliable voting bloc.