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Puerto Ricans aren’t rushing to register to vote in Florida

"It’s not going to happen on its own.”
People line up on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, to get on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that is sailing to Fort Lauderdale with evacuees fleeing after Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria. [Photo by Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
People line up on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, to get on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that is sailing to Fort Lauderdale with evacuees fleeing after Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria. [Photo by Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
Published Jan. 28, 2018
Updated Jan. 28, 2018

By Steven Lemongello of the Orlando Sentinel:

With so many leaving Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria struck on Sept. 20, the influx of registered Florida voters from the island is expected to play a key role in this year's election and beyond. But so far, the number of newly registered Hispanic voters in Central Florida is not the big number that many forecast.

Democrats make up less than 30 percent of new Hispanic voter registrations in Central Florida since the end of September, with about 8 percent registering as Republicans and the majority, 63 percent, registering as independents …

As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are able to register and vote immediately. As a group they've also historically identified as independent but voted Democratic, leading party leaders and political analysts to predict a major impact in Democrats' favor in a closely divided state such as Florida, where Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by fewer than 120,000 votes.

In Central Florida, where about a third of the million Puerto Ricans in the state lived before Maria, 9,341 new Hispanic voters were registered in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31, state records show. They make up fewer than half of the 20,332 total new voters in the four counties in that period.

Democratic political strategist Steve Schale warns that his party should not take it for granted that new residents from Puerto Rican will bring on a Democratic surge.

"A lot of people in the party think this is just going to happen," he said. "But if you look at the data so far, it's not just happening. It's not going to happen on its own."

Full story here.