A hurricane that made landfall 1,000 miles from Miami jolted Florida’s political ecosystem a year ago.
Democrats and Republicans spent months making trips to Puerto Rico, jostling for endorsements from island politicians and cutting Spanish-language TV ads that reached as far as San Juan.
But one week from Election Day, there isn’t much evidence that Puerto Ricans who came to Florida after Hurricane Maria will end up shaping the state’s high-profile races for governor and U.S. Senate, where Republicans Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott are running against Democrats Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson. Though Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens who can vote immediately upon arrival on the mainland, operatives from both parties acknowledged that it’s a major challenge and a drain on finite campaign resources to get people to vote who are primarily concerned about finding stable housing, jobs and transportation.
Less than 8,500 Democrats and Republicans who registered before the 2018 primary election did so with cell phone numbers containing Puerto Rican area codes, giving them eligibility to vote in the primary, though most Puerto Ricans register without affiliation. Going into Tuesday’s election, they make up about 0.8% of the state’s total 2.2 million Hispanics who can vote in the November election. It’s possible that newly arrived Puerto Ricans could have obtained a Florida-based phone number, but the latest release of the state’s voter file does not provide any indication that new arrivals will usurp Cuban-Americans in South Florida or Puerto Ricans already in Florida as the state’s two biggest and most important Hispanic subgroups. A recent study by the University of Florida suggests that between 30,000 and 50,000 Puerto Ricans settled in Florida after Hurricane Maria, lower than previous estimates of 200,000 or more.
Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.