Puerto Rican Voters Could Flip Florida—If They Had ID

OCTOBER 29, 2020 — Laws on the mainland and bureaucratic breakdown on the island complicate voting for Floridians fleeing disaster. Fleeing environmental and economic devastation, an estimated 300,000 Puerto Ricans had decamped to the Alligator State by 2019, even before a wave of earthquakes racked their native island.

Published in The Daily Beast

Written by William Bredderman

Luz Ocasio Borrero was one of thousands of Puerto Ricans who fled the territory after Hurricane Maria in 2017. The memory is still a harrowing one.

“I lost my house, I lost everything,” the 50-year-old native of Cabo Rojo, on the island’s southwestern shore, told The Daily Beast.

Now she’s working with the Florida branch of another activist group, VoteRiders, to update her Florida state identification card with her latest address so that she can vote in the general election next week without the risk of any complications. If she succeeds, she could join a new pool of dislocated voters who have long been hyped, but have yet to materialize, as a decisive force in Florida politics.

COVID-19 only exacerbated matters, as government offices and functions in Puerto Rico shut down amid the pandemic. Jazlyn Gallego, a coordinator at Vote Riders, described a month-long backlog of vital records requests at the Puerto Rican Department of Health. And because of the pandemic, those who arrived following the late 2019 and early 2020 earthquakes found themselves even more economically battered than those who came two years earlier.

“People were having their homes destroyed and literally packing up and going in the middle of the night,” she said. “You’re walking into a pandemic when you move, so you’re leaving financial instability already to arrive into financial instability.”