As advocates prepare efforts register hurricane-displaced Puerto Ricans to vote in the U.S. mainland, the chief elections officer in Connecticut is putting the weight of her office behind drives to sign up as many eligible newcomers as possible. Residents of the Caribbean island are U.S. citizens, but they are barred from voting for president unless they are registered in the U.S. mainland. Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, said Wednesday that her office will work with local governments and community groups to identify and register those eligible to vote. She said registration is important for civic engagement and to give the newcomers a say in public affairs, including the federal government’s relief work on the island.
“We all know there has been much discussion about how much more needs to be done,” Merrill said at a news conference.
Thousands of Puerto Ricans have relocated to the U.S. mainland since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September. An estimated 4,000 have come to Connecticut.
Advocates have been laying plans to register newcomers in states that have taken in large numbers, including Florida in particular, but Merrill said she felt it was important for her office also to be involved. She said her office will work with others to help register voters, provide training to community organizers, and send staff to gatherings of newly arrived families from Puerto Rico.