Puerto Rico’s economic crisis meant Jeffrey Rondon, 25, struggled to find even part-time work, so he recently joined the growing exodus from his Caribbean island to Florida. Now he holds a full-time restaurant job and something that could upend the 2016 presidential election — the right to vote in Florida, the biggest of all swing states. “It’s important to vote and be heard — it’s a privilege,” said Rondon, who is one of thousands of Puerto Ricans who have moved to Florida in the past year. As U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are relatively easy to register to vote, and they are attracting unprecedented attention because they could change the political calculus in a state that President Obama won by the thinnest of margins in 2012: 50 percent to 49.1 percent.
“It’s a potential game changer for the state,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center. “It’s the biggest movement of people out of Puerto Rico since the great migration of the 1950s.”
Puerto Rican voters tend to lean Democratic, but a great number of the newcomers do not identify with any party, making them appealing targets for politicians and recruiters on both sides. Like those living in other U.S. territories, people in Puerto Rico cannot vote for president in the U.S. general election.