The Puerto Rican vote seeks to make its way in Florida through a structured plan of the Boricua Vota (Puerto Ricans Vote) organization that aims to substantially increase the number of Puerto Rican voters, so that they can directly advocate for solutions to the problems that affect the island.
This non-profit political organization, created in 2014, wants to fulfill four objectives. The most urgent one is the registration of all Puerto Rican residents in Florida who are eligible to vote.
Jimmy Torres Vélez , president of Boricua Vota, explained that their goal is that Puerto Ricans vote in the midterm elections, that lawmakers who respond to the needs of Puerto Rico are elected and that the electoral power of Puerto Ricans in Florida could be replicated in other states.
For this, Boricua Vota volunteers have not only gone directly to Puerto Ricans in Florida, but have also asked that those who live on the island to call their families and ask them to register.
Voter registration in Florida ends on Tuesday, October 9.
"All Puerto Ricans who have never voted (in the United States) and all those who have just arrived (in Florida) must register," said Torres Vélez in an interview with El Nuevo Día.
Elections in the United States are held twice every four years, and mid-term elections are on November 6. That day, people vote for governors, mayors, Congress members, state legislators, judges, sheriffs, school board members, among other positions. Congress members are also elected during presidential elections.
Historically, Florida has been one of the top destinations of the Puerto Rican exodus. After Hurricane Maria - a year ago - that destination became even more important placing the city of Orlando at the top of the list.
Currently, the county of Osceola in Florida, where the city of Kissimmee is located, is the one with the largest number of Puerto Ricans. It is estimated that one in four people is of Puerto Rican origin. In the neighboring county of Orange (where the city of Orlando is located), 13 percent of the inhabitants are Puerto Ricans.
Torres Vélez estimates that about 1.2 million Puerto Ricans reside in Florida and, of that amount, almost 700,000 could be eligible to vote. "The time has come for us to organize our vote, to give a Puerto Rican touch (to the elections) and to start talking about our real problems," said the leader of Boricua Vota.
He stressed that parity in healthcare services funds, the allocation of greater resources for schools and measures that promote economic development, such as the elimination of Cabotage Laws, are among the problems they intend candidates to address.
According to Torres Vélez, the Puerto Rican community must emulate the Cuban and Jewish communities because they have become visible in the United States. As an example, he commented that Cubans have five Congress members and three federal senators who represent their interests.
"Florida has 29 seats in Congress. Puerto Ricans can drastically change the electoral dynamics. Our campaign is aimed at making people understand the importance of voting in the United States," added Torres Vélez, who during the interview was accompanied by Alejandro Santiago Siena, director of the campaign.
Santiago Siena created a video with 41 Puerto Rican artists who, to the rhythm of plena music and with the slogan "your vote is your voice", invite Puerto Ricans in Florida to go vote.
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