Florida’s Puerto Ricans Change the Voting Map
Even though it has been nearly 100 years since Puerto Ricans became U.S. citizens, for many the jury is still out on the benefits. While Puerto Ricans can move about freely within the 50 states and do have some representation in congress, there’s still that nagging little thing about voting rights. Not being able to cast a vote for U.S. president like any other citizen has been a thorn and it isn’t going away. And as we approach another presidential election, the issue is louder than ever before.
One of the hot button issues currently in the United States is that of immigration. And even though Puerto Ricans living stateside are not immigrants, there is still a common misconception that they are. Even the media often gets it wrong, as is evidenced in the recent example of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has had much attention paid to her immigrant roots. Granted, the immigration issue doesn’t touch stateside Puerto Ricans the same way as other Latinos, but there’s still a largely sympathetic attitude toward it because many still have family on the island. And politicians are keenly aware of that fact as they campaign not only in this election, but all elections.
For decades, Puerto Rican migration was mostly centered in metro New York, but patterns began changing in the 1970s and Florida has now become the preferred place to settle for island transplants. The growth rate has been phenomenal. Florida’s Puerto Rican population back in 1970 was less than 30,000. By 1980 it had grown to nearly 100,000 and by 1990 it had surged to 250,000. In 2000 it jumped to nearly 500,000 and today it is over 900,000, with the vast majority of the state’s growth concentrated in Miami and along the Interstate-4 corridor between Orlando and Tampa-St. Petersburg.
The I-4 corridor is always considered a “must win” for presidential candidates who want to carry Florida, and the fast and furious campaigning is currently underway in the race for the Puerto Rican vote. There are now more Puerto Ricans living stateside than there are on the island, and this fact will become more pertinent as full citizenship rights are discussed and debated in the future. However, even though the voice is a powerful one, the Puerto Rican voting bloc is not yet organized as a strong coalition. But it is happening. For the first time ever, Puerto Ricans could pick the state’s winner in a presidential race.
The hotly debated political status of Puerto Rico is also up for a referendum on November 6th, as islanders will vote for the first time since 1998 on their preference of statehood, independence or maintaining status quo. Change is in the air. And one way or another, it may not be long before all Puerto Ricans get the right to cast a vote in presidential elections like other United States citizens.
Ralph Warren writes for Private Jets Charter, an international jet charter business.