Puerto Ricans will vote for the president and vice-president of the United States beginning in 2020 under a territorial law signed Saturday.
The vote will not count in deciding the winners of the elections but it could have a slight influence in determining the candidates who win Florida’s important Electoral Votes.
There may now be close to 1.3 million people of Puerto Rican origin in Florida. This is about 800,000 more than lived there when the State tipped the balance to the Bush-Cheney ticket in the 2000 elections.
More than a quarter of a million people have gone to Florida from Puerto Rico since October 4th, when commercial flights resumed after Hurricane Maria, although Florida politicians think that only 100,000 or so will remain. That, however, is likely to depend upon Puerto Rico’s recovery and economy, neither of which have been doing very well.
Politicians from both national political parties are paying close attention to the migrants, with Florida Puerto Ricans having been dubbed the ‘Swing vote of the swing State’ by pundits in recent elections.
Among the attentive elected officials are Governor Rick Scott (R) and U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R).
Scott has made a great effort to enable Puerto Ricans arriving in Florida after Maria to settle in the State easily. He may want to challenge Nelson for his Senate office in this year’s election.
Although Puerto Ricans in northern States reliably vote Democratic and Florida Puerto Rican voters did not generally support President Trump, most people in the territory do not identify with a national political party and many are relatively conservative on social and national security issues.
Republicans who pay attention to them and support statehood for the territory can do comparatively well. Jeb Bush won a majority of the Puerto Rican vote. After polling showed that little more than a third of Puerto Ricans in Florida viewed Rubio favorably, he endorsed statehood for the territory and split the vote with the Democratic candidate in 2016.
The new territorial law is a part of the statehood campaign of the New Progressive Party officials who control the territorial government.
It also may fit in with Governor Ricardo Rossello Nevares’ promises to unify the 5.8 million people of Puerto Rican origin in the States behind his Federal agenda and rally them to punish Federal elected officials who supported the new Federal Tax Reform law – almost all Republicans elected to Federal office. The law ended the ability of companies from the States to avoid Federal taxes through foreign corporation subsidiaries in Puerto Rico; it did not exempt them from the loophole closing, as Rossello requested.
Territorial Puerto Ricans already have a coveted vote in the presidential nominating process. Democrats give the territory State-like treatment in the allocation of presidential nominating convention votes. Republicans also give the islands substantial representation.
The western Pacific territory of Guam also conducts local balloting for president and vice-president. The results get some national news media attention on election days because the territory is so far ahead of the States timewise.
With Puerto Rico ‘voting’ on election day, presidential candidates can be expected to give the territory even more attention than it has gotten in the past.