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Will Latino Voters Trump Florida? Naturalization, Registration Key

Tim Padgett
A Latina Donald Trump supporter outside the GOP presidential debate at the University of Miami in March.

A recent poll shows presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are neck-and-neck in Florida. As a result, one voter bloc will likely be key to winning the state – and, since this is Florida, maybe the election.

Last week’s Quinnipiac University survey shows presumptive Democratic candidate Clinton leading de facto Republican nominee Trump in Florida by just one percentage point – 43 to 42.

Both have solid constituencies here – and they split the state’s large independent vote. So the one wild card is likely to be whether Latinos come out in large enough numbers for Clinton. Or against Trump – whose harsh anti-immigration stance has alienated most Latinos.

"Trump is having two effects on the immigrant community," says Ali Noorani, who heads the National Immigration Forum in Washington D.C. "It's motivating people to learn how to become a citizen. And there is motivation to have their voices heard in November."

Noorani is spending a lot of time in Florida this year, particularly with programs like Citizenship 123, helping those immigrants get naturalized and registered to vote.

Statewide, 2.6 million Latinos are eligible to vote and 1.8 million are registered. Noorani believes both those numbers may rise appreciably by election day.

In February alone, he says, "we saw 10,000 people take action to become citizens in Florida. When people are being talked about politically, they want to make sure that they’re part of that decision.”

Latinos make up 15 percent of Florida’s electorate.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.